Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara is the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, which features a Kibei Nisei gardener and atomic-bomb survivor who solves crimes, Officer Ellie Rush series, and now the new Leilani Santiago mysteries. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo, she has written a number of nonfiction books on the Japanese American experience and several 12-part serials for Discover Nikkei.

Updated October 2019

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Ten Days of Cleanup

Chapter One—The Contract

“Hello, Souji RS. Hiroko speaking.”

I held my cell phone to my ear as I defrosted some natto in the microwave. My 10-year-old daughter Sycamore’s lunch break was in a few minutes and she had 50 minutes before her next Zoom session.

“Are you the cleaning service?” The voice on the other line was male, low without any warmth. He sounded American, which meant he could have been any race or ethnicity.

“Ah, I provide a soul cleansing and past erasing service.” That was the tagline that I had devised after taking a free online branding course.

No response from …

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Silk

Chapter Twelve—A Japanese Girl

For the past two days, Okei’s teeth chattered, all day and all night. It was as if a spirit had entered her body and she had no control over it.

“I don’t want to die here, Sakurai ojisan,” she said to her constant companion, Matsunosuke “Mats” Sakurai.

Both of them had joined the Veerkamp household after the Schnells had disappeared. Since Francis and Louisa had so many young children, Okei was supposed to help lighten the matriarch’s load. As it turned out, Okei fell seriously ill with a high fever, creating an additional burden for the family.

Mats, who …

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Silk

Chapter Eleven—In the Dark Night

The sounds of the explosions seemed to get louder every day. Kintaro felt his whole body shake as the booms seemed close to shattering his ear drums.

His roommate, Makoto, had disappeared in the night. There was no one to retrieve him from his dark thoughts. He was afraid to sleep because he didn’t want to be caught off-guard. That’s what happened in the Boshin War. He had closed his eyes for a few minutes and then—BAM! A projectile tore through the castle walls and killed his sister and his mother.

Who had been responsible for such bloodshed and fatalities? …

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Silk

Chapter Ten—Lost Samurai

Shin: To become a person who is trusted, and who can trust others.

—a principle of the Aizu people

As the Wakamatsu colonists began to leave Gold Hill, Matsunosuke “Mats” Sakurai began to have vivid dreams from his past in Aizu. It was almost as if the celestials were populating his world in his sleep to compensate for the ones who left in reality.

Gone were the Saitos, the young couple whose marriage seemed to be strained by the complaints of the competitive wife. No longer would Mats be entertained by the antics of the seven-year-old Nozomi, whose front …

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Chapter Nine—Pickles and the Promised Land

Matsugoro Ohto wiped the sweat off of his forehead as he and his fellow carpenter, Kuninosuke “Kuni” Masumizu, took a break from their woodworking project inside the Veerkamp family’s barn on Gold Hill. Led by the family’s German patriarch, Francis, the Veerkamps were plentiful. By last count, Matsugoro thought that there might be at least six children, all boys.

His fellow Japanese countryman, Kuni, was more than twenty years younger than him. Kuni, in fact, was about the same age as Francis’s oldest son, Henry. Matsugoro was not intimidated by Kuni’s youthful strength. He had learned years ago that he …

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