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Summer of the Big Bachi (Mas Arai #1)

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  377 ratings  ·  79 reviews
In the foothills of Pasadena, Mas Arai is just another Japanese-American gardener, his lawnmower blades clean and sharp, his truck carefully tuned. But while Mas keeps lawns neatly trimmed, his own life has gone to seed. His wife is dead. And his livelihood is falling into the hands of the men he once hired by the day. For Mas, a life of sin is catching up to him. And now ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 30th 2004 by Delta (first published 2004)
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A wonderful book that started slow--like a boulder on its way down a mountain. It deals with the trauma of a past divided between an America and a Japan at war, the trauma of the atomic bomb, the trauma that lies between generations and between immigrants and their American-born children. But it's also some fine noir writing and a good mystery and I love it when one of my favourite genres explodes its traditional boundaries like this. I love it when a whole new side of Los Angeles opens up to th ...more
Kim Fay
Naomi Hirahara is another author I had the chance to learn about for the first time at the Tucson Festival of Books. Her mystery series about a grouchy Japanese gardener in Pasadena intrigued me, and when I read this first in the series, I was satisfied. I love reading about Los Angeles subcultures, I love history in my fiction, and this book had both, as well as a wry aging protagonist who I want to continue reading about. Mas Arai is a U.S.-born Hiroshima survivor who returned to America after ...more
Mary Helene
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Masao “Mas” Arai, a 70-year-old Japanese-American gardener is haunted by loss: the death of his wife Chizuko, his estrangement from his only daughter Mari who now lives in New York and an ever-dwindling client list as Latinos he once hired as day laborers have gone into business as gardeners themselves.

A survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Mas is always mindful to beware of bachi, the spirit of retribution. However, Mas fears that his sins of the past have finally caught up to him
Jul 12, 2009 Jill rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Carmen
Shelves: mystery
Okay, so this isn't about bocci the game but rather the Japanese concept of Bachi - something akin to kharma. I think this (mis)understanding would change the entire reading experience. But then, I'm all about expectation management.

This wasn't quite what I expected. Kind of like my (fairly regular) misadventures in the kitchen, I came to this book thinking it was far lighter than it turned out to be. Because I grew up in the area, it had many nice references to places I knew well, but I found t
First off I wouldn't categorize this as a Mystery as the publisher has done. Most of the mystery is about the reader finding out what the main character, Mas Arai, already knows.

What this book is really about is Mas, a 69 year-old Japanese-American who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, moved back to his birthplace, California, after the war and settled down into a "typical" American life in the suburbs of LA. But Bachi (sort of the Japanese version of Karma) seems to find him and
SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI (Mystery-Mas Arai-So. Cal-Cont) – DNF
Hirahara, Naomi – 1st in series
Dell Fiction, 2004, US Paperback – ISBN: 9780440241546

First Sentence: Mas Arai didn’t believe in Jesus or Buddha, but thought there might be something in bachi. In Japanese, bachi was when you snapped at your wife, and then tripped on a rock in the driveway.

Mas Arai was in Hiroshima when the bombs fell. Now, fifty years’ later and an older man, he is a widower with his gardening business in Pasadena. But
Zen Cho
Really liked this, and will look out for the next book. I found Mas interesting and sympathetic and liked the portrayal of a multicultural community -- felt much more convincing than the whitewashed pictures of USA you get via TV and movies. Also thought the portrayal of the dilemma of the PoC growing up in a white-majority country -- what am I, what should I be etc. etc. -- was interestingly done. It had nuance.

I'm not sure if the way Hirahara transliterated Japanese-accented English is how I'd
This is the first book in the Mas Arai series of mysteries, and oddly enough, it is the last one I read. I have enjoyed all of them and would recommend them. There are not a lot of contemporary mysteries I read, so this is a big deal for me to recommend a book set in the present day. Mas is a pretty cranky protagonist, but he's very interesting. He's a survivor of the bomb from Hiroshima, even though he was born in California. In this mystery, someone comes looking for his old friend Joji Haneda ...more
Mark Baker
Mas Arai is a Japanese American man and survivor of Hiroshima. When a man from his past comes back into his life, he must face things he felt were hidden during World War II. The book is well plotted and the characters are good, but I really struggled to get into it.

Read my full review at Carstairs Considers.
I completely failed to connect with the main character, Mas Arai. (view spoiler)

He should be an interesting character.

And yet. I don't know. Maybe it was partly the phonetic Japanese dialect. (Thatsu for
This book was given to me as a gift and this is the first in a mystery series.

The main characters are Japaneses Americans, some who have survived the dropping of the A Bomb on Japan in WWII.

I liked the mystery although I did have some trouble following who was who as far as the characters were concerned at first but the book was interesting enough that I didn't want to give up and I'm glad I finished the book.

Mas, the main character is not perfect and while he does have some flaws, he is persist
Penny Ramirez
This was an interesting book. Not my usual type of protagonist in a mystery, that's for sure. Sort of slow paced, with many flashbacks that are necessary for the unfolding of the several storylines.

Mas Arai is a Japanese gardener in LA, and a Hiroshima survivor. The novel, while focusing on a mystery in the present day, is really a character exploration of what it means to be a non-combatant survivor of a horrific war, and how different people dealt with those same circumstances. Mas is broken i
Marjorie Snook
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mainly in the way Hirohara manages to chart the incredibly complex mix of Japanese Americans in Southern California--native born Californians who spent time in internment camps, WW II vets, immigrants from after the war, even Japanese immigrants from Peru. The descriptions of the bomb falling on Hiroshima were appropriately bone-chilling.

The weakness of the book, I think, was the way in which she moves the plot along. There is a lot that is a bit unbelievable. Inf
I made a mistake. I started Naomi Hirahara's mystery series with the most recent book. In my defense, it's the one I found first. Blood Hina left me cold because of a common problem with a series in any genre: often, authors do not explain the interrelationships of the various recurring characters by the third or fourth book. If I've been a fan from the start, this is fine. I know everyone, I don't want the plot bogged down by repetition. What if a reader stumbles, like I did, across a later ins ...more
I don't remember where I read about this book, but it was recommended. I did like it, but it seemed slow in places, and if I didn't have much reading time, I'd probably not finished it.
I liked the protagonist--definitely not what I was used to. He is a believable detective, I think his age gives him credibility.
I also like the supporting cast; not an "attractive" group, to say the least, but they, like Mas, have much to offer because of their life experiences.
I also enjoyed the historical aspect
I am not a fan of amateur detectives. I also think this book was just an excuse to explore the effects of Hiroshima on Japanese Americans. The plot depended way too much on coincidences, but overall this was an enjoyable read. I did find the protagonist to be interesting: it's not often that we get to see the world through the eyes of a Japanese American gardener. I'm not sorry I read this, but I don't think I'll read another in the series.
Update: well, after the mystery book club meeting, I may
Nancy Walters
I love a good mystery so this was a joy to read! This book brought me back to my Pasadena roots, inviting me into the world or Mas Arai-Japanese American gardner and accidental murder investigator. The characters were well-drawn-their histories, flaws and strengths revealed in the unfolding mystery. The story took some interesting turns that took the reader from contemporary L.A., to Hiroshima, Japan, 1945. The author (who is a fellow South Pasadena High School Grad) provides particular insights ...more
There is a darkness to this book as the protagonist, the 70 year old Japanese-American gardner in So. California comes to terms with his past. But he bravely peels away the layers of his history revealing how it shaped his relationships and choices. There are so many sides to the story of the Japanese-American experience in WWII with Pearl Harbor, their internment in the US, those that served in the US military, those who had returned to Japan prior the war and then finally those that were there ...more
The murder mystery was less intriguing than the back-story involving teenage friends who survived the bombing of Hiroshima.
Gonzalo Corvera
Fuera de lo interesante de tener un vistazo a como percibieron Hiroshima los japoneses /americanos, no se me hizo ni muy original ni imaginativo
Hirahara-san was true to the Japanese writing style. The mystery was complimentary, the gist was the story of human life.

Maybe it's really true, that when you have experienced something that was like this in one moment and turned to be like that the next moment, you caught a glimpse of evil. Not only the one around you, but the one inside yourself too. Why, I cannot get my finger on it. But I feel it's true.
Loretta Loebs
Engaging. Excellent portrayal of Japanese character post Hiroshima.
Summer of the Big Bachi is a story about a Japanese-American man who survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. He now lives in California and owns his own landscaping business, but his past catches up to him. The past and present are interwoven in the story just as they collide in his life.

“Bachi” is Japanese for “spirit of retribution,” and it is this spirit that is invoked throughout the book. Hirahara does a good job of showing the life of Japanese-Americans back in the States and of the figurat
Pamela Okano
Somewhat confusing book about a Japanese American man, Mas Arai who was in Hiroshima on August 5, 1945, but now lives in LA. His wife is dead, he's semi-estranged from his daughter. There's a mystery about another Japanese American man, Joji Haneda, dying of cancer. Only Mas can figure it out. There's a murder as well. Annoying pidgin English (I'm Japanese American and had Japanese national relatives and they never talked like that!) and a confusing plot. Nevertheless the descriptions of Hiroshi ...more
I got lost in some of the characters, and found the plot to be a bit uninteresting. It wwas fun to read about so many areas around southern CA that I have come to know.
An enjoyable, though imperfect, mystery featuring a delightful protagonist American-born but raised in Japan Japanese gardener Mas, who survived the Hiroshima bombing physically but with many wounds and rough experiences, who fifty years later must face bad karma in this life (bachi). Interesting insights into the many permuations of Japanese-American experiences after WWII in America. A very good first book, and I have already started the sequel.
Being part of a family that lives the same history as the characters made me enjoy this book. Prior understanding of the historical and cultural background is what seems to make the difference in whether a reader likes it or not. It's not a traditional mystery story, and it was hard at the very beginning to sympathize with the main character, but I did have a hard time putting it down and found the characters and situations very realistic.
I don’t read many mysteries mostly because it seems like the plots rely too much on coincidence for my liking. Quadruple that for “The Summer of Big Bachi.” The total amount of Mas’s “sleuthing” is people risking jail or death to tell someone they don’t know and will never see again a piece of key information. It was frustrating and I really didn’t care about any of the characters . . . but I finished it. So, score one for me.
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PNWJETAA Book Club: Summer of the Big Bachi 1 4 Apr 07, 2013 09:29PM  
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Other Books in the Series

Mas Arai (5 books)
  • Gasa-Gasa Girl (Mas Arai, #2)
  • Snakeskin Shamisen (Mas Arai, #3)
  • Blood Hina (Mas Arai, #4)
  • Strawberry Yellow (Mas Arai #5)
1001 Cranes Murder on Bamboo Lane Gasa-Gasa Girl (Mas Arai, #2) Snakeskin Shamisen (Mas Arai, #3) Blood Hina (Mas Arai, #4)

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“You're a "chibi", and nobody notices you." Halfway good-looking people, according to Ricki, blended into the crowd. They never left any kind of strong impression. They were bland and anonymous. Ugly people, on the other hand, with fleshy noses or thin lips, always attracted attention.” 4 likes
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