The days before America’s entry into World War II are darkened by a murder with ugly racist overtones.
It all starts on Friday, Nov. 21, 1941, when swing violinist and sometime sleuth Katy Green (Too Dead to Swing, 2001, etc.) gets an unexpected call from her musician pals Ivy and Lillian with an offer she can’t refuse: playing aboard the luxury liner Lurline on a Hawaiian cruise. Fronting the makeshift band, which calls itself “Swingin’ Sarongs,” is Hawaiian singer Roselani Akau, who deftly mixes native tunes with standards. Katy scores a major coup by arranging for famous composer and pianist Phillip DeMorro to play with the Sarongs. DeMorro is decidedly homosexual, but Katy has better dating luck with a quartet of fun-loving Japanese-American servicemen, including Shunichi “Danny Boy” Ohara. The surprise arrival of Roselani’s twin brother Bill, a competitive surfer, sends a ripple of excitement through the Lurline. Bill and Lillian are an item, a fact they soft-pedal in front of Roselani. And there’s another secret: Lillian tells Katy that Bill has talked her into a plan to dig up a family treasure buried in Hawaii. But before they can, someone murders Bill. There’s no mystery why Danny Boy is arrested for the crime. But can Katy free him? The bombing of Pearl Harbor figures prominently in the climax.
Glatzer’s ambitious mix of mystery and history hits all the right notes.