Baffling clues impede a police probe of the murder of athletic young Thos Kahale, a Lake Tahoe transplant. Wearing only a pair of skis and clutching a suicide note, the Hawaiian native is found shot in the back of the head on a snowy mountain, leaving his Native American mother Janeen to raise his chronically shy son Phillip alone. Suspecting police incompetence (and maybe a little racism), Janeen hires smooth Tahoe shamus Owen McKenna (Tahoe Death Fall, 2001, etc.). It’s a natural choice, since Owen’s galumphing Great Dane Spot soon succeeds in bringing Phillip a little out of his shell. After Owen learns that two of Thos’s relatives have died recently under suspicious circumstances, he flies to Hawaii with gal pal Street Casey to investigate a secret shrine, reportedly the hiding place of such treasured Kahale possessions as a rare manuscript by Mark Twain—an obvious target for the killer. Though Thos’s brother John agrees to fly the duo to the site in his helicopter, the trip is incomplete: While en route, a stick-flinging mystery man triggers a crash, seriously injuring Owen and Street and killing John. The perp is Ole Knudson, a ubiquitous Swede with long blond hair and a bushy beard who Owen nicknames “The Viking.” Corpses continue to pile up before Owen catches his prey and unravels the mystery of the suicide note Thos left.
Mischief and quirky characters keep the tale afloat. The plot has few surprises, but Owen, a wry, courtly sleuth of the old school, consistently entertains.