Evolving Force Ellie Rush a new mystery series




By Naomi Hirahara (New York: Penguin Group USA, 2015, 304 pp., $7.99, paperback)

“Grave on Grand Avenue,” the much anticipated second book in the new Ellie Rush Mystery Series by Naomi Hirahara, provides intrigue, international inquiry, and family drama amid a dynamic and eclectic Los Angeles landscape.

Determined and earnest LAPD bicycle cop Ellie Rush faces two mysterious incidences in a single day; not only is the Green Mile  — the Buick Skylark gifted from her paternal grandmother — stolen from her driveway, but gardener Eduardo Fuentes, who she had just conversed with while on assignment, has been pushed down the stairway outside the Walt Disney Music Hall. Fuentes, accused of stealing a multi-million dollar instrument, utters a barely audible word to Ellie, before being taken to the hospital.

The motive of the senior gardener to steal the cello, belonging to Chinese classical musician Xu, seems unlikely, but Ellie lays low to not interfere with Cortez, the detective on the case, and not fuel the chemistry between the two of them. When her best friend Nay Pram, with sights set on investigative reporting, asserts her inquiries and alerts concern from the LAPD, their friendship splits apart.

Maintaining a low profile and hanging solo does not last long for Ellie with her close-knit family entwined. She discovers the Green Mile had not been stolen, but reclaimed by Puddy Fernandes, a man who claims to be her grandfather.

With the well-developed characters in the series, readers look forward to their emergence and the relationships that help define Ellie. Her ex-boyfriend Benjamin has his own family concerns and leans on Ellie for support. And her good friend Rickie offers his loving jests and individuality that lightens her intensity. Followers of the award-winning Mas Arai series will be delighted to witness the two sleuths encounter one another, surrounding the death of Fuentes.

Hirahara uplifts Los Angeles with concise descriptive text from the no-nonsense narration of Ellie, who notes the Walt Disney Concert Hall for its cedar interior and acoustics, and humorous quips from other characters. Johnny (her co-worker), who’s more into extreme sports than the arts, has never stepped inside the concert hall. “Looks like a crushed beer can,” he says about Frank Gehry’s masterpiece.

At the interchange of Highways 134 and 170, Ellie recounts the Tillman Reclamation Plant, “It was Mother’s Day . . . it happens that the recycling plant also has one of the most gorgeous Japanese gardens.  My father kept saying, ‘Can you believe this thing of beauty is here, a product of recycled wastewater.’ My mother and Grandmother Toma, the actual Japanese and honored guests, were less impressed.  Grandma Toma kept sniffing and saying, ‘Something stinks.’”

With Ellie finding her place as a young female cop navigating the streets of LA, we discover a new lens that brings into focus pieces of her past — the family, the setting, the relationships — that comprise who she is becoming, an evolving force in a diverse and changing scene. “Grave on Grand Avenue” is a delightful glimpse at all the Ellie Rush Series may unfold.

Hirahara is the Edgar Award-wining author of “Murder on Bamboo Lane,” which received the T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award. She is also the author of the Mas Arai Mysteries and “1001 Cranes,” and has written, edited, and published several non-fiction books, largely about the Japanese American experience.

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