Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of One Big Itch by Sara Williams. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.
ArcheBooks (BookZine Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59507-197-0 (1595071970)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59507-197-2 (9781595071972)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $14.95
Review: Sara Williams introduces "hapa haole" private investigator John Spyer, who looks into the circumstances surrounding the murder of an old friend, in One Big Itch. The novel is published as a "BookZine", a format similar in size to a magazine.
Noted economist Dr. Randolph ("Randy" to his family and friends) Haverhill has been on the receiving end of a number of petty crimes, manuscripts shredded, wedding china broken, office vandalized, and the like. But for Spyer, the trouble began with a note tucked inside an engraved invitation to a celebrity event featuring Randy. "John please come. You must. We need your help." It was signed by Randy's new wife, Hillary. Spyer agrees to meet her, but there seems little that he can do. Three months later, Haverhill is dead, shot in the chest and crotch. Though almost certainly a crime of passion (Randy was, well, randy with the ladies), the police arrest his son, Toby. Spyer is puzzled by this ("Toby Haverhill couldn't murder a cockroach. Of that I was quite certain.") and sets out to determine the truth.
The author provides a map of Oahu, with locations referenced in the book highlighted, a glossary of Hawaiian terms used, and even a pronunciation guide, all well and good and much appreciated. What would probably have been most helpful, however, is a cast of characters. There are a lot of them and it's not always easy keeping who's who straight. The story seems to take a somewhat circuitous path at times, but is otherwise well-plotted with an abundance of red herrings. A minor quibble: Toby never makes for a credible suspect and it's a little disingenuous to spend so much time on his defense, especially when there are so many other interesting suspects.
It would be remiss not to mention something about the book's format. Its size and attractive, eye-catching cover make it appear much like a trade magazine. It fits comfortably in a briefcase or seat pocket and in general is easy to read (though the font used is less than ideal). The format possibly works better with shorter novels (this, at nearly 150 pages, is probably on the long side) and it will be interesting to see if other publishers adopt it.
Overall, One Big Itch is a fast-paced, enjoyable novel with a lot of local Hawaiian color, published in an unusual format that's perfect for taking along to read in place of a magazine. It's well worth seeking out.
Special thanks to ArcheBooks for providing an ARC of One Big Itch for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
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Synopsis (from the publisher): One Big Itch is set in Honolulu, the playful tropical city that's also haunted, as Detective John 'Oluhana Maalaea Spyer well knows. Too bad Spyer is a hapa haole (ha-pa how-lee), a half white, and so pays only half attention when Madam Pele herself warns him off the Randolph Haverhill case. No decent Hawaiian ever says no to an old friend, which makes Spyer the quintessential "soft boiled" detective. Despite Madame Pele's warnings, Spyer investigates the death of his childhood pal Randy Haverhill, opening his own psychic wounds and putting the love of his mainland girlfriend Maya to the test. Spyer is soon privy to a frightening tale of obsessive love. Trouble is, Randy became too popular with the ladies for his own good. It appears that one of Randy's crazed lovers shot Randy on his doorstep. So why do the police persist in the notion that Randy was murdered by his own son?
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