by Naomi Hirahara
An older gardener, working outside the Disney Concert Hall, sustains fatal injuries when he falls (or was shoved) down a flight of stairs.
Fang Xu, father of the internationally famous cellist known as Xu, claims the gardener, Eduardo Fuentes, was trying to steal his son’s $5 million Stradivarius cello.
Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Ellie Rush spoke briefly with Fuentes as she entered the building to use the restroom.
The story told by Fang Xu doesn’t add up for her.
If her work as a bicycle patrol officer in downtown Los Angeles isn’t challenging enough, Ellie’s family history is about to erupt. Ellie wakes up one morning to discover her 1969 Buick Skylark, affectionately known as “the Green Mile,” is missing from her driveway. The car was a gift from her paternal grandmother, “Lita” Rush, and was once owned by the grandfather she’s never met — until now.
Walking her dog around the corner, she discovers her car, somewhat worse for the wear, parked at the curb. Rushing back home to get her car keys, she finds an older man in a dirty khaki shirt and heavy, untrimmed mustache peering in her windows. He introduces himself as Puddy Fernandes, adding that he is her grandfather. He has personal information about Lita and pulls a rusty car key on a chain from inside his shirt as he claims ownership of the Green Mile.
Her long-missing grandfather claims that he has been at sea working on container ships these many years. He’s returned to find a former running buddy, Ronald Sullivan, whom he suspects of being the notorious Old Lady Bandit, who has been robbing LA banks and recently killed a man.
The Old Lady Bandit case is being worked by Detective Cortez Williams, who makes Ellie’s heart patter.
There’s a lot going on in this story. Many of the characters will be familiar to readers of the first book in the series, Murder on Bamboo Lane (2014): Ellie’s aunt Deputy Police Chief Cheryl Toma; her former boyfriend Benjamin; best friend Nay Pram; college friend Rickie, a dumpster-diving, recycling, upscaling artist; her parents, her two grandmothers and her brother, Noah.
This is the second book in author Naomi Hirahara’s Ellie Rush series. The characters are fun and interesting, but this book is less tightly focused than Murder on Bamboo Lane. It reads as if two short mysteries — the fight over the cello and Ellie’s family backstory — have been folded together to make a single book.