Curmudgeonly Japanese American gardener and unwitting detective Mas Arai is back in the fifth novel in the Edgar Award-winning series, “Strawberry Yellow” (Prospect Park Books, 2/26/13).
Naomi Hirahara has created a memorable protagonist unlike any other: a Hiroshima survivor, Los Angeles gardener, widower, gambler, grandfather, and solver of crimes. In “Strawberry Yellow,” he returns to the strawberry farms of his youth and encounters family intrigue, danger, and murder.
The series’ latest mystery is set in the strawberry fields of Watsonville, where young Mas first arrived as a Hiroshima survivor in the 1940s. He returns for the funeral of a cousin and quickly gets entangled in the murder of a young woman. Was his cousin murdered, too? Mas has to figure out what happened, keep himself safe, and uncover the mystery of the Strawberry Yellow blight and a new strawberry varietal so important that it could be inspiring a murderer.
Hirahara, a former English editor of The Rafu Shimpo, is an engaging speaker who’s always a hit at bookstore and mystery events. She’s very active in the Japanese American community and is a past president of the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. She won the Edgar Award for best paperback original mystery for “Snakeskin Shamisen,” the third in the Mas Arai series.
The other books in the series are “Summer of the Big Bachi,” “Gasa-Gasa Girl,” and “Blood Hina.” Hirahara is also the author of “1001 Cranes,” her first novel for young readers, and several non-fiction books, including “Taste for Strawberries: The Independent Journey of Nisei Farmer Manabi Hirasaki.”
Hirahara’s upcoming appearances include the following:
• Thursday, Feb. 21, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the Central Library, 630 N. Fifth St., Los Angeles. Discussion with Andrew Leong, translator of Shoson Nagahara’s “Lament in the Night.” Info: www.lapl.org
• Sunday, Feb. 24, at 4 p.m. at Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Event with Andrew Leong. Info: (310) 659-3110, www.booksoup.com
• Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at Vroman’s 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Official “Strawberry Yellow” launch party. Info: (626) 449-5320, www.vromansbookstore.com
• Tuesday, March 13, at 7 p.m. at Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena. Admission: $15 general, $10 for members. Advance tickets available at http://strawberryyellow.brownpapertickets.com/. Info: www.pasadenahistory.org
• Friday, March 15, at 12:30 p.m. at Mysterious Galaxy, 2810 Artesia Blvd., Redondo Beach. Lunch with Naomi — brown bag or buy lunch at Catalina Café and Coffee within bookstore building. No reservations necessary. Info: (310) 542-6000, www.mystgalaxy.com/
• Saturday, March 16, at 2 p.m. at Book’em Mysteries, 1118 Mission St., South Pasadena. Info: (626) 799-9600, www.bookem.com
• Sunday, March 17, at 2 p.m. at Book Carnival, 348 S. Tustin St., Orange. Info: (714) 538-3210, http://annesbookcarnival.com/
• Saturday, March 30, at 2 p.m. at Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles. Info: (213) 625-0414, www.janm.org
• Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. at Katy Giessert Civic Center Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd., Torrance. Info: www.torranceca.gov/Library/
• Saturday-Sunday, April 20-21, at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on USC campus. Info: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/
• Saturday, May 4, at 1 p.m. at Japanese American Museum of San Jose, 535 N. Fifth St., San Jose. Info: (408) 294-3138, www.jamsj.org