THE LAST PARADISE by James D. Houston


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 Diffuse, now-and-then enchanting mystery set in modern Hawaii. In a physical and emotional landscape where lovers and volcanoes seem to erupt synchronously, Houston pits developers against both environmentalists and Native Hawaiians over a troublesome yet promising geothermal electricity scheme. Vietnam vet Travis Doyle, an insurance claims adjuster from San Francisco, takes on a cushy job on the Big Island of Hawaii: He gets busy checking out a fire at a drilling site on the slopes of the volcano. Once islanded there, Travis, who was the love- and-drug- troubled son of Houston's protagonist Montrose Doyle in Continental Drift (1978), immediately bumps into Evangeline Sakai, his teen angel from a youthful summer spent long ago in Honolulu. Now a single mother who's trying to rebuild her life, part-Hawaiian Evangeline is drawn, like almost everyone on the island, into Ian Prince's geothermal scheme, which will either provide billions of kilowatts for development or inspire the wrath of Pele, the native volcano goddess. As lava sweeps down on the site and Travis is compelled to wrestle with his demons (and, eventually, with Evangeline herself), Prince's plan to pin blame for the fire on a rabid pot-growing protestor comes utterly undone. Having always believed that Pele would target him anyway for his hotel-building father's transgressions, Prince dies in the hopeless attempt to deliver a compensatory offering. Meanwhile, Evangeline dedicates herself to Hawaiian activism, and Travis goes home to (maybe?) tend the family apple orchard. Houston's latest has a lot going for it: a plot derived from real-life events, plus a vividly accurate portrayal of Native Hawaiian reverence for the volcano. And so it's a pity that the action is slapdash and the dialogue wooden. An uneven, intriguing effort.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8061-3033-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998


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