Historically based fiction that follows the fevered push to annex Hawaii.
In the last throes of the 19th century, powerful sugar-plantation owners based in Hawaii enjoy a free-trade treaty with the U.S. that allows them to export unrefined sugar to the States sans tax. This treaty keeps that industry afloat amid competition by the Philippines and Caribbean countries, as well as burgeoning U.S. growers. However, the unpredictable Hawaiian king is against the renewal of the treaty. Jack Powers, a senior partner at a premier U.S. law firm that represents the main sugar-plantation owners, decides that the only permanent solution to this recurring problem is to overthrow the king and force the absorption of Hawaii by the U.S. government. He intimidates the head of a local bank to manufacture evidence that the king has been embezzling money from a foundation established to distribute health care to the people of Hawaii. The king suddenly dies while on a diplomatic mission to California, leaving his sister as heir to the throne. As a result, Powers must switch course and contrive to charge the queen with treason after she announces a plan to rewrite the constitution. Meanwhile, the young attorney who admires Powers, David Coe, a man with familial roots in Hawaii, begins to feel queasy about Powers’ Machiavellian plan and disregard for the rule of law. Debut author Radakovich shows a deep understanding of the history and culture of Hawaii as well as an abiding affection for it. While he dramatizes historical events with some narrative license, he does an impressive job of remaining true to the documented facts. Also, the character of David Coe captures an ambivalence that seemed to run through some of Hawaii at the time: many were enamored of commercial progress and the advantages brought by a special relationship with the U.S. but also loath to sacrifice cultural and political autonomy. This is both a thriller and a lesson in political imperialism.
An astute dramatization of historical intrigue.