Friday, June 27, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Mahu Fire by Neil S. Plakcy

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

Mahu Fire by Neil S. PlakcyBuy from

Mahu Fire by
A Hawai'ian Mystery with Kimo Kanapa'aka

Alyson Publications (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-59350-079-3 (1593500793)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59350-079-5 (9781593500795)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Six months have passed since Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapaka'a's return to Honolulu from his undercover assignment on the North Shore. He's becoming more comfortable with his visibility as Honolulu's only openly gay homicide detective, including mentoring a group of gay teens.

Kimo, his family and friends are attending a local charity event in support of gay marriage when a bomb disrupts the gala. Kimo is determined to find out who feels strongly enough against the issue to kill—but it's possible that his high profile will stand in his way.

With hunky fireman Mike Riccardi at his side—day and night—Kimo digs through the ashes to find that not only is heat dangerous for the heart, but that fire can burn through the hottest of motives.

Review: Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa'aka investigates threats against the gay community including a bomb that injures members of his family and kills a city official in Mahu Fire, the third mystery in this series by Neil S. Plakcy.

Kimo is assigned to investigate the shooting death of an old man and a dead rooster in the same neighborhood. What makes the situation unusual is that both were killed by the same gun. Later, at a black tie dinner that included many prominent gay residents, a bomb is detonated, killing one, the Vice Mayor, and injuring many others. A string of disturbances had been plaguing the city, but the bombing was a considerable escalation in the violence. And then another person is killed at a gay marriage rally. Kimo has more than just his investigation on his hands when a teenager is mentoring disappears and his ailing father takes a turn for the worse. A wildfire on the island just adds to the complexity of what turns out to be a series of interconnected relationships that Kimo needs to sort out before someone else is hurt or killed.

In contrast to the previous book in this series which had a credible and interesting mystery, there is little to note in this regard in Mahu Fire. The first half in particular is written far more as gay fiction than mystery fiction with a gay character. Kimo spends much of his time pursuing a relationship with firefighter Mike Riccardi; the fact that he's supposed to be investigating a murder is clearly secondary. From a plot perspective, the investigation becomes slightly more important in the second half of the book but by this time the there is little suspense since it is obvious who is behind all the violence.

There would seem to be much potential in this series. still seems exotic to many people and in many ways is a perfect locale for a mystery, and an openly gay police officer is, or should be, a positive role model. But the author squanders the opportunity to use either to great effect in Mahu Fire. There is little of Hawaii in the book; the fire described at the end of the book, for example, is so generic it could have taken place in California or Florida. And, oddly and somewhat inexplicably, the author's portrayal of Kimo at times tends to reinforce many of the negative stereotypes people have of the gay community. 

It's not clear where Plakcy is taking this series. Mahu Fire as gay fiction is mildly entertaining. As a mystery, however, it is a step backward and that's unfortunate.

Special thanks to Breakthrough Promotions for providing an ARC of Mahu Fire for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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