Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Mahu Surfer by Neil S. Plakcy

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Mahu Surfer by Neil S. Plakcy. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Mahu Surfer by Neil S. Plakcy

Mahu Surfer by
A Kimo Kanapa'aka Mystery

Alyson Publications (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59350-007-6 (1593500076)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59350-007-8 (9781593500078)
Publication Date: August 2007
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Mahu is a generally negative Hawaiian term for homosexual, and for police detective Kimo Kanapa’aka, being gay doesn’t make for an easy life. Especially when you are publicly outed. Now, semi-retired, Kimo must go undercover and stop a brutal killer. Already three surfers have been shot dead, and Kimo must infiltrate the close-knit surfing community, knowing his only way back to active duty is to catch a killer he may know all too well.

Review: Neil S. Plakcy's second mystery to feature gay Honolulu police detective Kimo Kanapa'aka, Mahu Surfer, hits all the right notes as a mystery yet misses the mark as an overall novel.

Someone has killed three surfers on the north shore of Oahu () and Kimo, a surfer himself, is sent undercover to determine who is behind the murders and why. Kimo is asked to portray an ex-cop who has left the force because he was "outed" and who has retreated to the north shore to do a bit of surfing and soul searching. He quickly determines the three deaths are related and that there is no shortage of suspects. The motive behind the murders, however, eludes him until his probing puts his own life in danger.

Plakcy has crafted a fine murder mystery that is well thought out, with clues to its solution scattered throughout the story. Kimo conducts an intelligent investigation, and regularly summarizes (for the reader) what he knows and what conclusions he has drawn to that point. Yet in the end, the identity of the killer will likely come as a surprise. That, in and of itself, is sufficient to recommend this book. In this regard, it's really quite well done.

But there are a few minor problems with the rest of the book that are troubling nonetheless. The first third of Mahu Surfer reads like an early draft of a screenplay from the Keanu Reeves surfing mystery movie Point Break. It's not all that credible. And it's hard not to picture Keanu playing the role of Kimo. (In retrospect, that may actually not be a bad thing.) Plakcy also fails to convey a sense of what it's like to surf, or even to visit, the north shore of Oahu. Anyone who has done so, or who has watched the opening credits to Hawaii Five-O, will wonder if the story actually takes place there. And finally there are the sex scenes which are not an integral part of the plot or even contribute in any meaningful way to character development, but can at best be described as gratuitous. At one point Kimo says, "I was going to have to learn to keep my personal life separate from my job. I needed to practice some restraint; I needed to keep my pants zipped for a while. Not just for my job, but for my own sanity." Plakcy should have taken Kimo's advice and applied it to his writing.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing a copy of Mahu Surfer for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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