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Death in Little Tokyo

by Dale Furutani

Publishers Weekly Furutani gives a short course on Japanese-American culture on the West Coast in this pedantic, occasionally poetic debut. Unemployed computer programmer Ken Tanaka rents an office and fixes it up to look like a detective's office in order to host an L.A. Mystery Club weekend. When a woman comes in to hire him, he goes along, believing her to be a participant playing a joke. After she leaves and he realizes she wasn't role-playing, he feels obligated to retrieve the package she paid him to get. He picks up the package from international businessman Susumu Matsuda and gives it to his girlfriend, Mariko, for safekeeping. However, Matsuda is soon hacked to death, and Ken fleetingly becomes a suspect. Despite repeated cautions by Mariko and the insensitive detective in charge, Ken, who solves Mystery Club puzzles faster than other members, determines to find out why the man was killed and by whom. But once he is beaten up by Japanese gangsters, it becomes clear that real crime is less organized and more complicated than the game variety. Furutani packs so much history of the Japanese in America and mentions their current social problems so frequently that the mystery in this slim novel seems an afterthought. (Oct.)

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