Rating: 5 stars
Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka and his detective partner Ray Donne are called on one of their most complex case when an abandoned warehouse goes up in flames and in the rubble the remains of a prominent statesman are found. When the cause of death is determined to be murder, Kimo and Ray follow an ever expanding field of clues that stretch from local gyms into the rarified society of Hawaii’s oldest and wealthiest families.
More bodies pile up as the murderer stays just ahead of them, putting their families and themselves in danger. In addition to his case, Kimo’s personal relationship with his partner Mike is under stress as they decide whether or not to go ahead as donors for their lesbian friends and a young runaway makes Kimo and Mike think about being foster parents.
Hawaii is a place of immense beauty , where predators and prey live and die as nature dictates. Under the shinning sun and majestic waves, treacherous events happen even as the ambience lures you in. No one is more aware of the delicate balance than Kimo Kanapa’aka as he races to find the murderer and keep his new found family safe.
Natural Predators is the first book I have read by Neil S. Plakcy and therefore the first book I have read in this series. I started early evening and read right through until 2am in the morning, pausing only to rub my eyes, adjust the light and continue on until I had finished. I had heard wonderful things about this series but still nothing prepared me for the richness and depth of the story and characterizations I found within. It was like going to a nice restaurant only to find out that the restaurant is gourmet, Jose Andres is the chef, and you are sitting at the chef’s table.
Natural Predators is a veritable luau of Hawaiian delights, a banquet of varying aromas, textures, tastes and melodies, something for everyone’s palate. Plakcy’s characters range from low level thugs to runaway teens to high society lawyers and businessman and everything in between. Each character has a defining “voice” consistent with their histories and culture, from traditional haoli conversations to the pidgin dialect heard among those born on Hawaii. Here Kimo and his partner track down two suspects in the case:
“Mr. Campbell. Police. Open up.” We waited, and Ray was about to knock again when the door opened. Larry, a fat Hawaiian guy with dark dreadlocks, stuck his head out. “Hey, Leroy, it’s da kine police,” he said. “Long time no see, bruddas.”
Larry yawned and stepped outside, and big, bald Leroy followed him. “How about your cousin Pika?” Ray asked. “He in there, too?” “Nah, he wen bag two days ago.” “But he was living with you before he left?” I asked. “Sometimes he moi moi wid us, sometimes wid his buddy,” Leroy said.
To Ray’s credit, he seemed to be following the conversation, which meant he was learning our island pidgin. Pika slept at their place sometimes, but had left two days before. “Tacky?” I asked. Larry nodded. “Yeah. Bodybuilder dude. Dumb as two rocks in a box.” That could describe the Campbell brothers, too. “You know where we can find him?” I asked. “Try gym,” Leroy said. “Ho brah, he alla time workin out.”
Picked out of context, it might seem a little jarring but still you can hear the rhythm of the spoken words and in context, you barely notice it so because you have become so accustomed to hearing it throughout the novel. By the end of the story, you will feel as though you have walked the streets of the city and sat and conversed with all types of Hawaiians, The authenticity of elements and locations Plakcy has brought to the story make it that real.
We travel with Kimo and Ray as they traverse from one side of the island to the other, collecting Hawaiian history and geographical facts as we go. From the history of Hawaii’s quest for statehood or independence to the polyglot of cultures that makes up a typical Hawaiian conversation, we are slowly pulled in to the draw of the islands and the rhythm of daily life there. And not once does any of it come across as a regurgitation of a history lesson.
Again Plakcy seamlessly folds in tidbits of Hawaiian sayings and facts, as in this example:
“Just before four, we hopped in the Jeep to meet Frankie. In Honolulu, we don’t use mainland directions like east, west, north and south. Makai is toward the ocean, while mauka means inland, toward the mountains. Diamond Head is in the direction of that extinct volcano, while the opposite is called Ewa, toward a town of the same name.”
Actually I could just keep on with quote after quote, Natural Predators is that terrific, Neil S. Plakcy is that great. His descriptions are vivid, wide ranging and carry with them the tone of a detective familiar with the full spectrum of human society, one that has lost its element to surprise him but manages to deliver an appreciation for life and its special moments no matter the situation. I am in love with all of the characters here.
Natural Predators is a novel not of one plot thread but many, and Plakcy does a remarkable job of not only paying equal attention to every one but also to keep each storyline as strong and rich in texture as all the rest. The murder mysteries have a complex history to them, the foster child element will make you laugh and cry, sometimes together, you will hold your breath as Kimo and his partner Mike work through yet another potential obstacle to happiness with regard to surrogate fatherhood and still read in amazement as Plakcy rolls in more layers much like the tropical habitats that abound in Hawaii. If I thought he would have heard it, I would have stood and applauded upon finishing this story.
So what happens now? Well, hopefully you will go off to buy the book and I am going back to the beginning and start the series from Mahu (Mahu#1). I can’t wait for the ride to begin again, such an E Ticket!
Here are the books in the order they were written:
Mahu (Mahu #1)
Mahu Surfer (Mahu #2)
Mahu Fire (Mahu #3)
Mahu Men: Mysterious and Erotic Stories
I can’t find the name of the cover artist but they did a beautiful job, worthy of the story within.