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.