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Friday, April 10, 2015

Review - Grave on Grand Avenue

This is a new series that I reviewed the debut novel, Murder on Bamboo Lane (click here) and we were honored to have a guest post from Ms. Hirahara (click here).  Let's see how the newest book in the series does today.

Author: Naomi Hirahara

Copyright: April 2015 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Officer Ellie Rush Mystery series

Sensuality: some scattered swearing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Police Procedural

Main Characters: 23 year-old Officer Ellie Rush, bicycle cop

Setting: Modern day, Los Angeles

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

While Ellie is patrolling one of Los Angeles’s premier concert halls she chats with gardener Eduardo Fuentes. Minutes later she finds him lying at the bottom of a staircase, clinging to life and whispering something indecipherable. The father of Xu (pronounced "Chew"), a popular Chinese classical musician, accuses Fuentes of attempting to steal his son’s multimillion-dollar cello and was knocked down as a result. But Ellie has trouble believing that account.  Mr. Fuentes dies from his injuries and Xu goes missing.  All while the department is scrambling to stop a rash of robberies from the Old Lady Bandit.

A substory has Ellie dealing with family drama when she discovers that the person who stole her beat-up 1969 Pontiac Skylark is a long lost relative with hidden agendas and a dark past.  

Ellie Rush is half Japanese, and among her friends her career choice isn't appreciated.  She has to deal with derision because she is a lowly bicycle cop and distrust because her Aunt Cheryl has the Police Chief job in her sights. Nay Pram is her best friend who puts distance between them during this book as she follows her journalism career that conflicts with Ellie's at times.  Detective Cortez Williams gets little page-time, but his scenes show him to be a good influence for Ellie.  Benjamin, Ellie former boyfriend, appears in this story again and there is some resolution between them.  Aunt Cheryl is still ambitious but shows her family loyalty as well.  Ellie's father takes the family drama poorly, which actually had me liking him for his struggle.

Ms. Hirahara displays Los Angeles as vibrant and busy with its big-city problems.  She deftly flavors the book with the mix of cultures that shapes LA into its own unique identity.  The plot was fine with the Old Lady Bandit case in the background and the struggle over a renowned musician's Cello resulting in death.  But, I do have to say that neither story line had much immediacy to it, nothing that raised the tension to hurry and solve the murder etc. This low tension factor slowed the pace a bit as well. 

The climax had one notable tense moment around the Old Lady Bandit case, but the resolution to the disappearance of musician Xu and his father was anti-climatic and matter-of-fact.  The wrap-up emphasized how important the bond between her friends is and gives a positive note as well as a development with with Cortez that leaves the reader wanting more.

This second book had a tough act to follow from the debut book in this new series.  It is a solid story with wonderful and fresh characters that lacked a suspenseful engine to ratchet-up the tension. All-in-all, I enjoyed the book and appreciate Ellie and her world.

Rating: Fine - A fun read, good but not stellar. 

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