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Your 2023 Just Desserts hiatus Reading Suggestion – The works of Naomi Hirahara

During our traditional November and December hiatus period when Just Desserts does not meet in person, we usually offer you a suggestion of an author or series for you to try to sample, which you can can post a comment about in our Just Desserts blog. The author we suggest this year is Naomi Hirahara. Hirahara is an American author, born and raised in Southern California, who has written both fiction and non-fiction books, as well has having served as the editor of the largest Japanese-American newspaper in the United States.

Hirahara has written entries in four of her own original mystery series, has contributed short works to other author’s series or anthologies, has written five non-fiction titles, and has one non-mystery standalone novel to her credit. She has won both the Edgar Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her four series are as follows:

Mas Arai series features elderly Japanese-American gardener Mas Arai as the sleuth (2004-2018): Summer of the Big Bachi (2004), Gasa-Gasa Girl (2005), Snakeskin Shamisen (2006), Blood Hina (2010), Strawberry Yellow (2013), Sayonara Slam (2016), Hiroshima Boy (2018).

Officer Ellie Rush series features L.A. bike cop Ellie Rush, who aspires to become a homicide detective and keeps getting involved in murder cases on her beat (2014-2015): Murder on Bamboo Lane (2014), Grave on Grand Avenue (2015).

Leilani Santiago series – College grad Leilani returns from Seattle to Hawaii to help her MS-diagnosed mother keep the family’s shave ice shack business afloat and gets pulled into mysteries (2019-present): Iced in Paradise (2019), An Eternal Lei (2022).

Japantown Mystery series are set after Aki Ito and her family are released from the Japanese internment camp Manzanar. First book is set in 1944 Chicago, and the second in Southern California in 1946 (2021-present): Clark and Division (2021), Evergreen (2023).

Standalone Non-Mystery Novel: 1001 Cranes (2008).

In the list above, the Lincoln City Libraries currently owns any of the Naomi Hirahara titles that are hotlinked – either in regular print format, audiobook or digital formats. There are a limited number of copies of each title available. Titles not hotlinked are not in the libraries’ collection.

Just Desserts members wishing to participate in this hiatus reading activity are encouraged to read ANY one or more of the novels listed by Naomi Hirahara. and then return to leave a comment on this hiatus discussion post in the Just Desserts blog any time in either November or December.

This link goes to the Naomi Hirahara page on, where you can link to the plot descriptions of each book in her various series.

This link goes to the official Naomi Hirhara website.

Your question: Which Naomi Hirahara novel(s) did you read, and what was your opinion?

2 thoughts on “Your 2023 Just Desserts hiatus Reading Suggestion – The works of Naomi Hirahara

  1. Cathy Tallon

    I read & liked Clark & Division. The story covers the Ito family in California before WWII. The family was then forced out of their home and out of their businesses to a camp. The family was finally allowed to leave but couldn’t return to California and were relocated to Chicago. Rose Ito was sent to Chicago first but died just before her family arrived. Her younger sister, Aki, started looking into Rose’s death and discovered secrets about Rose. There is a lot about how Japanese/Americans were treated during the war.

    November 28, 2023 at 4:32 pm
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  3. Scott Clark

    I read the 2014 Naomi Hirahara title “Murder on Bamboo Lane” back in 2015, and enjoyed it quite a lot. Hirahara created a central character of bike cop Ellie Rush, who was very appealing and engaging, and I was looking forward to more in the series. While I did end up picking up the second entry, “Grave on Grand Avenue”, for some reason I never got around to reading it, and now, knowing that these are the only two that were released in this series, it’s not high on my “to be read” pile. Which is too bad, because the first one really was an enjoyable mystery — part police procedural and part amateur detective, with a well-developed setting and interesting character relationships. I may try to dig “Grave…” out sometime to finish off the series.

    November 30, 2023 at 4:00 pm

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