THE BURNING ISLAND by Hester Young

THE BURNING ISLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A psychic searches for a missing teenager on the Big Island of Hawaii in the final volume of a trilogy (The Shimmering Road, 2017, etc.).

Readers expecting a ripped-from-the-headlines account of Kilauea's eruptions may be disappointed, though Volcanoes National Park is the setting for this novel’s deepest dives, literally if not thematically. Our heroine, psychic sleuth Charlie, needs to escape the media feeding frenzy surrounding her latest clairvoyance-assisted rescue of a missing child. A "Girls’ Week" vacation in Hawaii with best friend Rae seems just the ticket. However, the trip immediately draws Charlie into another missing person case, that of Lise Nakagawa, 16-year-old daughter of Victor Nakagawa, a volcanologist at the park. In lucid dreams, Charlie sees through the eyes of a menacing male who approaches Lise as she lies vulnerable on a hammock. (This is unusual for Charlie, since she usually inhabits the victim.) Ostensibly interviewing Victor for a travel magazine, Charlie questions him about Lise and why he seems so unperturbed by her absence. Lise and her identical twin sister, Jocelyn, attend a progressive private school, and though Jocelyn is studious and Stanford-bound, Lise is a wild child forever getting in trouble. The desultory police investigation has targeted Elijah, Lise’s boyfriend, with whom she broke up just before her disappearance. Elijah is the middle son of Naomi Yoon, who is rumored to be Victor’s lover. The Yoons appear to be the last remnants of an oppressive cult. In a comedic set piece, the two middle-aged “girls” go undercover with Lise’s slacker friends, Brayden and Frankie, whose pidgin dialect is faithfully if somewhat questionably reproduced. Late in the game we learn that for the Nakagawas and the Yoons, dysfunction is the best-case scenario. Since Young’s overall tone is lighthearted, such unforeshadowed dark turns may give readers whiplash. Insights into Hawaiian culture and class divides, ample volcano lore, and Charlie’s wry voice keep us reading, but in the end we hope for a less uneven follow-up.

Though this book is the end of a trilogy, there's every indication its heroine will be back.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-399-17402-5
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2018




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