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Mas Arai, the protagonist of three Los Angeles-set mysteries by Naomi Hirahara, is a Hiroshima survivor in Pasadena, Calif., working as a gardener and indulging in a gambling habit in his spare time. Mas is not exactly the most likely detective, but he’s one who solves many mysteries nonetheless. Snakeskin Shamisen, Hirahara’s Edgar Award-winning 2006 final installment in the Mas Arai series, finds the character as he learns about a slot machine promising a $500,000 prize. But before he can get too excited, Mas learns terrible news: a friend of his friend G.I., Hasuike, has been murdered, and G.I. wants Mas to look into what happened. All Mas has to follow is the trail of a snakeskin shamisen, an Okinawan instrument, which was at the crime scene—and soon he is caught up in a world-spanning mystery. —Mahita Gajanan

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