An attorney finds trouble in paradise in this crime novel set in 1930s Hawaii.
Lawyer Grant Kingsley is out skin diving with his friend Keoki Makanani when they come across a peculiar scene. A mahogany Chris-Craft speedboat is unloading crates next to Popoia Island, and when Kingsley and Keoki get closer to investigate, they come under fire. Keoki is killed, and Kingsley is left with an enemy who vows to harm his family. One of the men on the boat is Bruce Donaldson, a criminal whom Kingsley sent to jail for raping a Japanese woman but who subsequently escaped and joined the bootleggers. While Kingsley does what he can to protect his kin, the local news is abuzz with the details of a different case. The wife of an officer in the U.S. Navy claims that she was raped by local men in what would become known as the Massie Affair. The subsequent trials would bring attention to racial unrest on the islands. It is turmoil that Kingsley’s son, Dan, knows all too well. Although Dan’s school combines students of many ethnic backgrounds (such as Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Portuguese), it can hardly be described as a genial melting pot. Fernandez’s (John Tana, 2017, etc.) story combines the factual and the fictional and seasons them with healthy doses of gunfire and Hawaiian history. While Kingsley and his family are invented, the Massie Affair is a real event of the early ’30s. It is an incident, when examined, that helps to paint a vivid picture of discord in what the uninformed might assume was a tropical wonderland before the attack on Pearl Harbor. But dialogue, especially Kingsley’s, tends to be stilted. This is the case when the straight shooter tells his wife, “Don’t be cynical of law enforcement,” or says of his 1931 Packard: “It drives well and is fast.” Although it is clear early on that Kingsley is a hero, the tale’s intrigue comes from the environment surrounding him. While readers are not treated to the most finely spun plot, they are likely to come away with a much fuller understanding of Hawaii’s past.
While aspects of the story do not
always sizzle, this book delivers plenty of enticing history.