In Spring’s debut thriller, an anthropology professor may be marked for death by an immortal sorcerer.
Honolulu Police Detective Joe Adams calls Dr. Kawika Kinimaka-Ka‘ahalewai from the University of Honolulu to a murder scene. The professor, an expert in Hawaiian folklore, examines what appears to be a ceremonial sacrifice and surmises that the victim died from ‘an?‘an?, or death by prayer. He consults with his adoptive sister, local museum-archives director Dr. Ku’ulei Beamer, who links artifacts from the scene to a secret organization called the Hale Huna Society. The victim’s name appears on a list of society members’ descendants, as do Kawika’s, Ku’ulei’s, and their relatives’, leading them to speculate that they could be targets themselves. Meanwhile, two other narratives feature Honolulu district court judge Keoni Kaona, one taking place in the mid-19th century and the other in 1873. In them, Keoni achieves immortality, courtesy of a magical stone; founds a cult; becomes a kahuna (or sorcerer); and has various run-ins with the law. After another murder takes place in the present day, Kawika discovers an old diary entry that may hold the key to the deaths. Spring ably handles the various timelines in this long novel, sometimes teasing future events, such as what eventually happens to a sheriff who keeps coming after Keoni in the 1800s. The hero and villain are equally engrossing, with well-developed back stories: Kawika recently lost his wife to brain cancer, for example, while Keoni’s pregnant spouse died from an apparent fall off a cliff. The author fondly lingers on details of the Hawaiian scenery (such as an “unmistakable scent of plumeria tree blossoms”) and food (including “heaven-sent chicken” with “purple-heart sweet potatoes, white rice, and lomilomi salmon”). So much of the story centers on Keoni’s past, however, that the suspense of Kawika’s and his family’s plotline is middling. Still, the final act delivers, offering the specific reason for Keoni’s murderous agenda and a fairly open ending.
A lengthy but absorbing tale featuring skillfully woven storylines.