A lightweight but entertaining Hawaiian whodunit.

READ REVIEW

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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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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