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Summer of the Big Bachi Summer of the Big Bachi Summer of the Big Bachi (Mas Arai #1)

3.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  453 Ratings  ·  90 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 goneto 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 b ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 30th 2004 by Delta (first published 2004)
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I was super excited to read this book. The main character is not your standard detective; he's a gardener, and he came to America after WWII as a survivor of Hiroshima. That sounded like the promise of richly drawn characters, social/political commentary, maybe some discussions about culture and history... and a mystery!

But, once I started reading, I discovered that Masao, the main character, speaks in a weird accent ("Heezu" for he's, "knowsu" for knows). It sounds like something really small,
Mar 04, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-noir, la
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
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.
Jun 12, 2016 Grace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I "met" Naomi Hirahara at the recent Pasadena LitFest, thought she has interesting things to say, and decided to read the first Mas Arai book because the other panelists and LitFest attendees spoke so reverently about it.

I wasn't prepared for just how blown away by it I would be.

Yes, the language is a bit hard to understand at first. But, you have to understand that Mas and his buddies speak a dialect that is distinctly theirs. It's born of their isolation from both the Japanese in Japan an
Kim Fay
Apr 06, 2013 Kim Fay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2012 Mary Helene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 19, 2013 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Rena Sherwood
Perhaps this isn't so much a book review as a warning of what may happen in your brain when you read a book like Summer of the Big Bachi while drowsy.

First off, I thought the title was Summer of the Big HABACHI so I was prepared for a light-hearted look at the misadventures of a backyard BBQ chef. (I don't read book blurbs anymore because they spoil the fun of picking a book solely on the basis of cover art and title.)

Imagine my surprise. I was also suprised when I finished the book and read the
Dec 27, 2014 Chelsea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ages 13 and up
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2015 Betty410 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book of our Mystery Book Club choice for this author and as many of the first in a series I find some faults which usually gets worked out in subsequent stories.
It took about half the book before a mystery or a crime was even mentioned and that time was not utilized a I think it could have been in character development, especially with the peripheral characters. The unfamiliar names contributed to that, as well.
The author is deeply familiar with problems facing the Japanese, e\
Lucy Takeda
Jun 07, 2016 Lucy Takeda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally got hold of the first book in the series! The novel does help explain a lot of those relationships that didn't make sense when I read the later novels before. Mas is irascible, but he does follow a code of honor. There were lots of connections to make in this novel to figure out why things were happening the way they did, which makes sense, since it goes back to the bomb dropping in Hiroshima. I tend to be fond of determined, righteous older men like Mas. A knowledge of Japanese termin ...more
I thought Summer of the Big Bachi was very good and well-written, but I wouldn't really classify it as a mystery. The story centers on a 70-year-old Japanese-American gardener named Mas Arai who was in Hiroshima during WWII and now lives in Altadena, near Los Angeles. He has some secrets from the war that end up coming out during the summer of 1999.

There is a mystery of sorts (and a murder) but there is not such a big revelation at the end as I was led to expect from the description. Where the b
Jul 12, 2009 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Baker
Mar 18, 2014 Mark Baker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2006
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.
Claire Felong
Sep 07, 2015 Claire Felong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up at a yard sale just for a fun read but ended up being really impressed. A totally unassuming detective, it took me almost to the end of the book to realize this. Learned so much about Hiroshima and the Japanese and American cultures post WWII. As a former Los Angeleno, I enjoyed revisiting the town through new eyes. Now Gasa-Gasa Girl is on my reading list!
Ginger K
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
Apr 11, 2016 Mel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mas Arai is an unlikely hero, when we meet him he is a widower and a disheveled landscaper in the outskirts of L.A., but through his eyes I learned what it meant to have survived the Hiroshima bombing and how living through that trauma changed him and his relationships. The mystery was a helpful forum for learning about Mas.
Oct 09, 2013 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2011 Marjorie Snook rated it liked it
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
Apr 24, 2010 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 13, 2016 Lis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
First of a series. Interesting protagonist, an elderly Japanese-American who, though born in the US, lived in Japan as a child and survived the bombing of Hiroshima. The plot goes back and forth between then and the present in California.
Michael crage
Aug 17, 2015 Michael crage rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a terrible book. The writing was poor and if it had any kind of plot, I couldn't find it. The only reason I finished it is that it was the only book I had with me and I had to sit and wait for about three hours.
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
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PNWJETAA Book Club: Summer of the Big Bachi 1 4 Apr 07, 2013 09:29PM  
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  • Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu
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  • Lost Girls and Love Hotels
  • Disciple of the Wind (Fated Blades, #3)
  • Jade Lady Burning (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom #1)
  • Love in Translation
  • American Woman
  • My Girlfriend's a Geek (novel): Volume 1
  • Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China
  • Playing It by Heart: Taking Care of Yourself No Matter What
Naomi Hirahara writes stories in the form of mystery novels, noir story stories, middle-grade fiction, historical nonfiction and personal essay. The third in her Mas Arai mystery series, SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Paperback Original. The first, SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI, will be published in France in 2015 as LA MALEDICTION D'UN JARDINIER KIBEI. The first in her Office ...more
More about Naomi Hirahara...

Other Books in the Series

Mas Arai (6 books)
  • Gasa-Gasa Girl (Mas Arai, #2)
  • Snakeskin Shamisen (Mas Arai, #3)
  • Blood Hina (Mas Arai, #4)
  • Strawberry Yellow (Mas Arai #5)
  • Sayonara Slam

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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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