Sayonara Slam by Naomi Hirahara

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Sure, Mas Arai is showing his age in this, his sixth outing, but then he always was a cantankerous old so and so, and that was the prime charm of the series. But now our Japanese-American survivor of Hiroshima is 80 you’d think the series could do nothing more than descend into cosy soap opera.

But it doesn’t. Granted, Mas is unable to be an action hero, but he is still heroic, sacrificing his easy life in pursuit of justice, and not over some ridiculous Col. Mustard-in-the-billiard-room-with-a-candlstick-like crime, but one that harks back to injustices done to Japanese Americans under Roosevelt and Korean sex slaves under the imperial Japanese.

That Hirahara manages to blend modern life with the real, painful history (on both sides of the Pacific) with the occasionally comic fictional character of Mas, but steer clear of doctrinaire finger-pointing on the one hand or unconvincing absurdity on the other, is the mark of an author with ability and, even better than that, something worth saying.

No. 11 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2019.

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Patrick Sherriff publishes a monthly newsletter highlighting good fiction about Japan and featuring an original painting or sketch. He lives in Abiko, Japan, with his wife and two daughters.