A tautly paced, impressively accomplished police procedural marking the beginning of a promising mystery series.

Death of a Messenger

A KOA KANE HAWAIIAN MYSTERY

From the Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery series

Hawaii forms the lush backdrop for a veteran detective’s attempt to foil a grisly murder plot involving priceless looted artifacts.

When Hawaii County Chief Detective Koa Kāne is airlifted to Pōhakuloa, an Army live-fire training area on The Big Island, he faces a mutilated murder victim and the most challenging case of his career as an investigator. The body, found inside a natural lava tube cave, bears the markings of a ritualistic sacrifice. The crime scene also surprisingly unearths a long-buried royal crypt within an ancient stonecutters’ quarry, which fits nicely into Kāne’s suspicions of a grave robbery or an illegal archaeological dig. The investigation ramps up when the son of retired-gumshoe-turned-fisherman Hook Hao is seriously hurt while exploring an unsecured military range on neighboring island Kahoolawe, south of Maui. Having developed personal discipline from years in the Army, Kāne is well-respected in the Hawaiian Island chain as a loyal, hardworking native, and he navigates the homicide with slick precision, undaunted by a string of messy leads and bumbling interlopers quick to jump on the scene. In between all of the diligent police spadework, McCaw, a veteran attorney, softens the protagonist’s hard-boiled exterior with a subplot involving his striking, younger girlfriend Nālani, who struggles with sexual harassment at her job in Mauna Kea. As the mystery deepens, the author masterly displays a finely balanced mixture of detective work, local color, and interpersonal melodrama. This winning combination is typically the mark of a seasoned writer, so this debut novel may exceed the expectations of many readers. McCaw keeps the sure-footed plotline suitably tight. As the narrative plumbs the history of Hawaiian archaeology and incorporates fascinating ancient island regal rituals, the area’s precious artifacts, and indigenous Polynesian customs, a complicated host of co-investigators and various suspects emerge. From a smarmy, ex-Marine archaeologist with good intentions to a secretive prince, a violent black market contraband dealer, and a star-struck astrologer, the suspects present Kāne with an arduous task. The pressure’s on the detective to sift through these individuals to find a common link, or discard them all to uncover the true villain before tragedy strikes again. This book’s vivid, thrilling conclusion is both unique and atmospheric in a whodunit featuring a resilient sleuth successfully defending his native tropical paradise.

A tautly paced, impressively accomplished police procedural marking the beginning of a promising mystery series.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63413-780-5

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Langdon Street Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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