Setting – Kneubuhl does an excellent job of portraying
in 1935. She has great knowledge of the islands, especially Hawai’i Oahu
where most of the book takes place.
Having just been on the island a few weeks ago it was so striking how the island has been developed and built upon in the last 78 years. Where only
Waikiki was developed in the 1930’s there is
no longer a spot left to develop on the beaches around .
At Hale’iwa there was a gracious decaying hotel in the book. Now the town has
lots of apartment buildings and shops. Where the characters could go for a
horseback ride up to Honolulu
there is now a paved path limited to walkers and carts for those who cannot
manage the walk. Waimea Falls
|The old Hale'iwa Hotel in its earlier glory days|
Era – The author has clearly done extensive research on the history of
. A major theme
in the book involves the effort to unionize the workers on the plantations
outside Hawai’i . The workers,
often Asians, were treated harshly, paid little and had primitive living
conditions. The business elite of Honolulu
wanted to maintain their control of the workers. Honolulu
The references to old Hawaiian traditions and culture were interesting. The effort to hold onto the past was struggling against the dominating white culture.
Part of the plot – It was a decent mystery exploring the tensions and divisions in the wealthy Burnham family. There is a spousal conflict, issues over who and how the family business will be run and challenges between the adult children and their father, Henry.
Henry is a leader in the plots of the plantation owners to keep field workers out of a union.
Character depictions – Primary sleuth, Mina Beckwith, is beautiful. Her twin sister, Nyla, is equally beautiful. Mina’s boyfriend, Ned Manusia, is handsome. Nyla’s detective husband, Todd, is boyish in appearance. Grandma Hannah is round with “a flawless brown face”.
Amanda Burnham, Henry’s wife, has a “dazzingly hypnotic smile full of aloof, elegant beauty” and a shrewish personality. Her daughter, Tessa, is equally beautiful while daughter, Hester, has glasses that slide down and a body that looked stocky in rumbled clothes. Son, Sheldon, has hair that “fell rakishly”.
Henry is “not bad looking, but not the type to send anyone’s heart soaring”.
Gwen Reed, secretary and mistress to Henry, is a little plump and blowzy.
Emil Devon, protégé of Henry, has “an attractive but dark aura”.
Publisher, Christian Hollister, is a “tall, lean, handsome man”.
Part of the plot – While, as set out above, the mystery was alright I did not find the number of bodies fit the story. It was a book with too many bodies for the plot.
Political correctness – All the good people were politically correct by current standards and all the bad people were most incorrect.
Perfection – Mina, Nyla, Ned and Todd had nary a flaw in their personalities.
I was glad to have read a genuine Hawai’ian mystery but doubt I will read another in the series.