Murder on Bamboo Lane

Naomi Hirahara is a professional writer; fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, and teacher. Both of her parents were in Hiroshima when the bomb destroyed the city. They met much later and were married in 1960. Her father, American born, returned with his wife to Southern California. Naomi was born in Pasadena.

No surprise then that the hero of this story is a half-Japanese LAPD bicycle cop. Ellie Rush followed her aunt into the police force. Aunt Cheryl is now a deputy chief and is not above using her niece as an informer. Ellie’s mother, Cheryl’s sister, is less interested in Japanese than her husband. As Ellie said, “My dad, the white guy, is sometimes more Japanese than any of us.” Grandma Toma is busy watching UCLA basketball.

But, back to the case. A Vietnamese girl is shot on Bamboo Lane. The investigation questions friends who are Cambodian, Thi, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Most are American born, except the victim. Why is a lowly bike cop involved? She knows most of the people in the case and even identifies the body. Also, remember Aunt Cheryl? She arranged for Ellie to work with the lead detective.

The story has plenty of twists and plenty of problems for the hero. She narrates the story with a fair share of humor.

This book was published in 2014. There is a second book in the series: Grave on Grand Avenue (2015). Hirahara has another series featuring the Japanese gardner, Mas Arai. It is also a mystery series.

The characters are real. I feel like I was in their home during Grandma Toma’s eighty-eighth birthday celebration–one that would never make the cover of any magazine except Dysfunctional Families. Ellie is a no-longer-Catholic who likes to visit the priest from Ghana, who just happens to speak Vietnamese. In LA, that is easy to believe.

Mike Lawrence


Thirty-Three Teeth


This is one of those rare books that is mysterious, far-fetched, down to earth, funny, and educational all in one. Cotterill’s style reminds me of Macall Smith’s series.

This book is the second in a series of at least 10 Dr. Siri Paiboun stories. Siri is the national coroner of Laos in 1978 at the age of 72. With two  quirky assistants, he tries to solve crimes in a new communist country that is still one foot in the sixteenth century.

A sad bear is featured in this story, but it is the cat that takes over. Through it all, there is the clumsy, paper shrouded, brain-dead bureaucracy that provides plenty of frustrations and laughs for we dear readers.

Cotterill also saddles Siri with his own powerful spirit who sometimes helps, but only when it suits the spirit. If you are going to enjoy the story, think of it as a crossover book, part mystery, part voodoish scifi.

I will read more of this series. I give this book a 4+ rating.

Mike Lawrence