Grave on Grand Avenue
An Office Ellie Rush Mystery, Book #2
By Naomi Hirahara
Author’s Website: www.naomihirahara.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
LAPD bicycle cop—and aspiring homicide detective—Ellie Rush is back on patrol in the newest mystery from the award-winning author of Murder on Bamboo Lane.
Ellie stops for a friendly chat with gardener Eduardo Fuentes while patrolling one of Los Angeles’s premier concert halls. A few minutes later she’s shocked to discover him lying at the bottom of a staircase, clinging to life and whispering something indecipherable. Nearby, the father of Xu, a Chinese superstar classical musician, claims Fuentes was knocked down while attempting to steal his son’s multimillion-dollar cello—a story Ellie has trouble believing.
Meanwhile Ellie has issues of her own to deal with—like the curious theft of her car, a 1969 Pontiac Skylark. But after the gardener takes his last breath and Xu mysteriously disappears, it’s clear to Ellie she must act quickly before someone else falls silent…(Goodreads)
Grave on Grand Avenue is an extremely well-written novel, giving the reader insight into the inner workings of the big-city police departments. Ellie Rush is in her second year as a cop, her first as a bicycle cop. Many of her peers are aware of her relationship to Cheryl Toma, her aunt and the Assistant Chief of the City’s police department which is like a strike one for who might want to be her partner. Her college degree is the second strike – as if being a woman on the force isn’t enough! Ellie is a very intelligent, hard-working young Japanese-American woman; she knows Little Tokyo in LA; bringing much to her team.
It is not a daily event for Ellie and her partner to get involved with a robbery or aggravated assault while on bicycle assignments, and it is quite by accident that she meets the weathered Mexican-American gardener who she interacts with briefly – then minutes later he is almost dead, having been pushed down a stairway by the father of the famed Xu, visiting cellist from China. The backdrop for these events is near the Walt Disney Concert Hall; descriptives of this, the garden, and the other neighborhoods show the reader the special beauty of each.
This case, and her best friend Nay’s growing friendship with the Xu’s and their publicist, lead the LAPD to one dead end after another while Ellie attempts to find Nay without causing problems with her job. The case clearly has international implications when the Xu’s, prevented from escaping by private jet, go off the grid – leaving behind all their luggage and Xu’s Stradivarius, valued at over $5 million. Afterwards, challenges occur from their home in China when they requested to return home.
The Green Mile, Ellie’s antique boat of a car, has been stolen, so she relies on her bicycle or public transportation to get around. The car was signed over to her from her paternal grandmother; the car had once belonged to her anonymous grandfather who had left before his son, Ellie’s father, was born. Who would want the old tank? The theft of the Green Mile will open the door to many old family secrets that she has been unaware of, secrets that threaten the peace and well-being of her family.
Grave on Grand Avenue would be one of what I would think of as an objective mystery – one that has more drama than humor. I like both equally well: both require diligence and intelligence to follow the clues and the labyrinthine plots, and one or the other will meet a reader’s preference on any given day. This novel is easy to begin reading and hard to put down; the reader is pulled into the opening scene with the missing car and learning about Ellie. This is the second novel in the series and can easily be read as a stand-alone
The characters and the LAPD are clearly urban with a different outlook and approach to crime solving than those in cozy small towns. That being said, the various neighborhoods have their own unique flavor as small towns would. The characters are very well defined and are emotionally and intellectually the equal of their small town counterparts. I like and respect Ellie, including her scholastic background, devotion to family, and goals. I actually enjoyed her friend Rickie in some ways, also. He has found his own unique ways of getting money – repurposing furnishings and other items found in his dumpster diving activities and selling them. It is surprising to me that Ellie’s closest friend is Nay, at least as seen in this mystery, as their priorities seem different in many ways. The reader is given an opportunity to see growth in Ellie as she faces the struggles of the unveiling of the family secret and the case with the gardener and the cellist while her friends and family are emotionally unavailable or involved in the tumult themselves.
The plot seems fairly straightforward, but it isn’t until late in the novel that the primary challenges, which include the Xu’s secrets, the secrets in Ellie’s family, and the absence of Nay are seen in actuality. I enjoyed having two mysteries within another, larger one, as well as having opportunity to see the growth of the primary character. This was an exciting novel that almost dared the reader to solve the puzzles of the mysteries, of which none were easy. I highly recommend this to people who enjoy young urban law enforcement mysteries, and those that appreciate more logic than intuition when reading a novel. Grave on Grand Avenue is the second in what I hope will be a long-running series, and I hope to also learn more about the Japanese-American culture in upcoming novels by Naomi Hirahara.