Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, strong mystery, brings history and sub-culture to life
Cons: Plot a little uneven near beginning
The Bottom Line:
Reporter drops dead
As a baseball game begins
Strong Mas mystery
Mas Finds the World of Baseball Murder
For the last couple of years, I’ve been wanting to return to the world of Mas Arai; I’ve just never made the time. However, that changed when I got an ARC of Sayonara Slam, the latest in the series. I’m glad I gave him a second chance.
If you haven’t met Mas, he is one of the more unique main characters in the mystery world. He’s a survivor of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima at the end of World War II. After the war, he immigrated back to the United States, where he has lived his life in Southern California as a gardener. As this book opens in 20009, he’s mostly retired with just one client. That gives him plenty of time for looking into a murder.
And murder is just what he finds at Dodger Stadium. The Southern California landmark is the host for the World Baseball Classic, and he’s going to the Japan vs. Korea game. His son-in-law is also the head gardener for the stadium, and Mas is helping him out before the game. That’s why he is there early, observing a press conference when one of the reporters drops dead.
Naturally, the police are treating it as a suspicious death. Mas has no desire to look into it until Yuki shows up at his door the next morning. Yuki is one of the dead reporter’s co-workers and the grandson of one of Mas’s friends in Japan. Mas reluctantly agrees to act as Yuki’s driver and translator, which draws him into the investigation. What will they find?
As you know, I’m normally a die-hard read in order person, but in this case there are numerous books in this series I have not read. I do feel that hurt me a bit in this case because I didn’t have the grasp on the characters to truly enjoy this book. No, nothing was spoiled about previous books, but the character growth we saw here didn’t mean nearly as much to me as I’m sure it does to series fans. Mind you, I did enjoy what I saw, and I found all the characters wonderful.
Likewise, the time used to set up those sub-plots felt like it slowed things down a bit early on in the book. However, once the investigation really got rolling, I found myself caught up in the story, with the sub-plots mixed in well. The climax was well done and answered all my questions.
I hesitate to mention this next part, mainly because it reflects more on me than anything else. Some of the characters speak in slightly broken English, and Japanese words are sprinkled into the story. I found both of these a bit annoying, mainly because they slowed down my reading. Is it wrong to do that? No. In fact, it’s probably more realistic that having these particular characters use normal English. As I said, it reflects more on me than anything.
On the other hand, I felt I learn something from this book. As much as I enjoy history, especially World War II history, there is much about the time period I don’t know. This book filled in a gap I didn’t know was in my World War II knowledge and does a wonderful job of showing how those events affected the people involved for the rest of their lives. And yet, the setting is contemporary, or at least almost contemporary since it is 2009. Plus these lessons are part of the mystery and never slow things down to preach at us.
Author Naomi Hirahara has a well-earned reputation for using mystery to bring a sub-culture to life without losing any entertainment, and it holds true yet again with Sayonara Slam. This is a mystery with some meat to it, and you’ll be glad you picked it up.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.