Even in paradise, murder can disrupt the lives of the upper class.
While her playwright fiance, Ned Manusia, prowls the streets of 1930s Shanghai in search of his lifelong friend Nigel Hawthorn, Mina Beckwith, back in Hawaii, lunches at the Harbor Grill with “petite and spunky” Cecily Porter, one of her childhood pals. Since Mina’s about to start work on the catalog for the upcoming Honolulu Academy of Arts show at Tamara Morrison’s gallery, where Cecily’s husband, Tom works, the two plan Mina’s best approach to the socialite over teriyaki steak and macaroni salad. Ned soon returns to Hawaii with Nigel and Nigel’s wife, pianist Mei Lien Chen, in tow, so tête-à-têtes over cocktails on the lanai often become foursomes. Ned and Nigel set up an outpost in town where they can help the Americans keep tabs on suspicious comings and goings at the Japanese Embassy. Meanwhile, Mina trails photographer Raymond Morgan as he snaps the artists in poses that evoke classical paintings. Mina does her best to write copy to accompany Raymond’s photos, but the artists, being artists, can’t always articulate what inspires them. One of the things that clearly does inspire them, however, is dallying with folks other than their spouses. So when corpses start to appear, Ned and Mina first assume the motive is personal. But Ned and Nigel’s surveillance soon points to the possibility of more global forces at work, as they find that even a remote tropical island can feel the force of the storm gathering over Europe.
Despite some sharp exchanges between the fiances, Kneubuhl (Murder Leaves its Mark, 2011) evokes Charlie Chan more than Nick and Nora, with exotic locale and period setting at the forefront.