Mischief and quirky characters keep the tale afloat. The plot has few surprises, but Owen, a wry, courtly sleuth of the old...


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.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-931296-13-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Thriller Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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