Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Blood Hina: A Mas Arai Mystery by Naomi Hirahira
When asked to be the best man at his bosom buddy's wedding, Mas Arai reluctantly agrees, keeping his personal opinions quiet. ("Why was Haruo, at seventy-one years of age, even thinking of getting remarried? Might as well just buy two cemetery plots right next to each other and put a bow tie on one headstone and a veil on the other"). Although Mas claims never to have been 'best' at anything in his life ("other than perhaps regrets"), he feels a weight of responsibility. Haruo, a former gambler who's "lost his wife and house to craps" clearly has faults, but he and Mas share history and a common bond, having both survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. When the wedding is abruptly canceled and the groom is suspected of stealing a valuable set of imperial Japanese dolls, Mas turns amateur detective. Hirahira's elderly protagonist, the self-described "has-been good-for-nothing gardener," is a thoroughly likable hero. Although the novel is sluggish at times, the author brings a different lens through which to view Los Angeles' Japanese-American community.