A lightweight but entertaining Hawaiian whodunit.

MURDER AT VOLCANO HOUSE

A SURFING DETECTIVE MYSTERY

Hughes (Hanging Ten in Paris, 2011, etc.) places his Hawaii-based surfing detective Kai Cooke in the middle of two cases involving untimely deaths.

“Sherlock Holmes had his pipe—I have my surfboard,” claims private investigator Cooke as he surfs not far from his Honolulu office. Cooke’s business card reads “Surfing Detective: Confidential Investigations—All Islands.” Far from dressing elegantly in a trench coat and deerstalker hat, he has one black aloha shirt for very special occasions but probably no long pants or shoes with laces. In this latest installment, Cooke works for two clients: The first is a law firm investigating a car accident in which 21-year-old twin sisters were killed along with a very drunk acquaintance; the second is a former beauty queen who fears that someone (or something) is out to kill her much older husband, Rex Ransom, the former CEO of a geothermal energy company much reviled by locals. Other top executives from Ransom Geothermal Enterprises have been found dead in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, on the island of Hilo. Ransom’s wife, Donnie, fears that the deaths were orchestrated by Madame Pele, the powerful goddess of fire and volcanoes, and that her husband will be her next victim. She hires Cooke to covertly guard her husband from attack while he visits the volcanoes, but Cooke fails in his mission—and finds overwhelming evidence that Pele is the most likely perpetrator. After the mystery is solved, Cooke’s love life gets back on track, and he rewards himself by going surfing with his favorite dog. The story reveals the killers through rather pedestrian detective work and somewhat obvious plot developments. However, the landscape and characters are consistently colorful, and the story glides along at a satisfying clip. Cooke appealingly lapses into the indigenous patois when talking to other locals, dropping phrases such as “[g]o figgah,” “latahs” and “hang-loose.” Hughes effectively uses the native Hawaiian language throughout and also provides vivid descriptions of the legendary island scenery.

A lightweight but entertaining Hawaiian whodunit.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0982944448

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Slate Ridge Press

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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