About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Murder Leaves Its Mark by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl

Murder Leaves Its Mark by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl – It has been some time since I read a book with such likes and dislikes. For a change in the review format I will list the likes and dislikes:

Likes -

Setting – Kneubuhl does an excellent job of portraying Hawai’i in 1935. She has great knowledge of the islands, especially 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 Honolulu. 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 Waimea Falls there is now a paved path limited to walkers and carts for those who cannot manage the walk.

The old Hale'iwa Hotel in its earlier glory days
I could see locations around Hale’iwa as they were before they were developed. Kneubuhl was accurate in her depictions. She lets a reader feel the lush trees and plants that help give Hawai’i its great natural beauty.

Era – The author has clearly done extensive research on the history of Hawai’i. A major theme in the book involves the effort to unionize the workers on the plantations outside Honolulu. 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.

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”.

Plantation manager, Lars Bruhn, has military short hair, a tanned and weathered face, and a dangerous reputation.
It was not hard to figure out who would be the victims in the book.

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.


  1. Bill - I like the way you structured this review. And thanks for the review itself; it's both thoughtful and candid. I'm interested in the setting and it's good to hear that the mystery is decent enough. I may wait on it though. I like better-fleshed-out characters and a more logical body count...

  2. Margot: Thanks for the kind words. I see no problem in waiting awhile.