Gasa-Gasa Girl (book)
Creators: Naomi Hirahara
Book cover. Courtesy of Random House
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The second mystery novel in Naomi Hirahara's "Mas Arai Mysteries" series, Gasa-Gasa Girl finds the Kibei crime solver in New York where he reconciles with his estranged daughter and unravels the mysterious death of a wealthy Nisei businessman.
As the novel begins in around 2000, Mas is summoned to New York by his daughter Mari who wants his help on a project to restore a historic Japanese garden that her husband Lloyd, a landscape architect, is working on. The garden is at a home owned by Kazzy Ouchi, a mixed-race Nisei who made his money in the silk business. Prior to the war, Kazzy's parents had been servants at this home, and his father built the Japanese garden. When he later became wealthy, Kazzy bought the home and is determined to restore the garden. When Mas arrives, he inspects the garden, only to find Kazzy dead, having been shot and dumped into the dry pond and covered with trash. The police investigate and suspect Lloyd and Mari; Mari is later arrested when a gun she owns is found to have been the murder weapon. Upon further investigation, Mas finds many possible suspects including Kazzy's son, a former girlfriend, business associates, and a neighbor who opposes the restoration project. But as usual, the key to the mystery stems from events that happened long ago, which Mas discovers with the help of his friends Tug Yamada, who happens to also be visiting New York, and Haruo Mukai back in Los Angeles.
As with the other Arai books, there are many references to the Japanese American World War II experience. Nisei who first meet each other inevitably talk about the concentration camps and the war. Kazzy and his friend Jinx Watanabe were in the Military Intelligence Service , and Kazzy was an instructor at the Military Intelligence Service Language School . A key character was at Seabrook Farms, New Jersey , and visits to the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center and the Japanese American National Museum play roles in the solving of the mystery. Takeo Shiota, a real historic figure who designed the Japanese garden in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and who died in an internment camp, also turns up in the story. An art piece by Joy, the daughter of Tug and his wife Lil, is inspired by their wartime incarceration.