Sayonara Slam (book)
Creators: Naomi Hirahara
Book cover. Courtesy of Prospect Park Books
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The sixth book in Naomi Hirahara's Mas Arai Mysteries series finds the Kibei gardener caught up in unraveling the mysterious death of a Japanese journalist covering the World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles. As in the other books in the series, Mas's Hiroshima hibakusha past and the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans play key roles in the plot.
Sayonara Slam takes place against the backdrop of the 2009 World Baseball Classic in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Drafted by his son-in-law Lloyd, the Dodgers' head grounds keeper, to help out with preparing the field, Mas is there on a day that the Japanese and Korean teams take batting practice in front of assembled media prior to their series of games. Afterwards, one of the reporters, a particularly rude Japanese middle-aged man named Tomo Itai, drops dead of an apparent heart attack. But police immediately suspect murder. From baseball players and fellow journalists whom Itai has feuded with to right-wing Japanese thugs and Korean civil rights activists, there are many possible suspects. When Yuki Kimura, a protege of Itai and the grandson of an old friend of Mas's from Hiroshima (and a key character in the first book in the series, Summer of the Big Bachi ), shows up to investigate the case and asks for Mas's help, the old gardener cannot refuse. In between investigations, Mas also ponders the status of his deepening relationship with Genessee Howard, introduced as a love interest in earlier books, and with his once estranged daughter Mari and her family, who now live with him.
As usual, references to the Japanese American World War II experience abound. There is mention of the wartime incarceration and the role of baseball in the concentration camps, citing the influence of Kenichi Zenimura at Poston . There are mentions of " no-no boys " and Tule Lake and of the rescue of the Lost Battalion by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . Mari had once worked on a film project on Japanese Latin Americans and the exchange ship Gripsholm and Korean so-called "comfort women" also turn up.
Preceded by Strawberry Yellow (2013)