Ryan (Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting that Launched the War on Drugs, 2011) delivers his second true-crime tale, this time covering “Hawaii’s underworld.”
When Charles Marsland's son was murdered, he vowed to find the killers. As a lawyer, Marsland had more recourse than most parents in his position, and he used it to his advantage. Marsland blamed his son's death on the Mafia that he and others were convinced was running Honolulu into the ground. His son, nicknamed Chuckers, had connections with the mob through his work as a bouncer. Marsland asked for and received a transfer from the city's civil law department to the criminal department, and though he was fired from that position, he was later elected by the people to serve as the top city prosecutor. It’s an intriguing tale, to be sure, but the hard facts seem to be in short supply, leaving Ryan with conjecture and engaging anecdotes but without a clear way to weave Marsland's search for his son's killers into his exploration of the underworld he wanted to expose. Like many authors of Mafia-related books, Ryan uses even tangentially related players to move the narrative forward. While portions of the book are gripping and Marsland's search for justice takes him through a twisted landscape, the accompanying heartbreak and frustration that would have connected him with readers are lost in a sea of facts and disputes within Hawaii's legal world. Even the promised juxtaposition of gritty crime with tropical paradise falls flat; the Mafia is clearly a presence in Hawaii, but its reach into everyday life is left largely unexplored, beyond general fear and rising crime rates. Marsland was never able to convict the men he believed responsible for his son's death, so readers are left without closure.
Without well-known criminal names or impressive crimes to pull an audience in, this will likely appeal only to Mafia buffs.