Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Sex, mayhem and justice in the Aloha State as openly gay Honolulu homicide detective tracks murderers, missing people & a dog with unusual appetites.
Openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka has had a long and storied career with the Honolulu PD in the Aloha State of Hawaii. In this selection of ten short investigations in the Aloha State, Kimo goes from rookie officer to seasoned homicide detective in a range of cases from a hearse carrying more than bodies and a psychic with some surprising information for Kimo and his partner.
A wonderful introduction to the rich cultures of the Hawaiian populace as seen through the eyes of its complicated native son. The stories are captivating, sometimes humorous and always richly layered. A must for all lovers of detectives on the hunt and mysteries waiting to be solved.
I first discovered Neil Plakcy and his Hawaiian detective, Kimo Kanapa’aka, towards the end of the Mahu series with the novel Natural Predators (Mahu #7). That book was such a revelation. Plakcy had created in Kimo Kanapa’aka a richly nuanced, highly complex character, one steeped in his family and Hawaiian culture. Coming in at the seventh story, I had missed out on all the character and relationship growth that had taken place prior so that Kimo, his domestic partner, and, foster son could have an established and happy home life. But the novel had enough glimpses into past stories to let the reader know that the climb to such a contented arrangement has been fraught with pain, difficulties, and a few partings. That alluring back history was enough to send me racing back to the beginning to see how it all began and meet Kimo at the start of his career.
Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations allows a reader new to the Mahu series a chance to dip into the life and cases of Kimo and his department at various stages of his life and career. As the blurb informs “from murderers to missing babies to a shaggy dog with an unusual appetite, openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka has his hands full…” with cases both extraordinary and colorful. But what really sets this detective apart from his counterparts is Plakcy’s ability to bring all aspects of the myriad Hawaiian cultures to life via vivid imagery and a use of colloquialisms and dialects, slang and tonal flow of the voices that swim in that great pot of peoples, traditions, lore, and even societal prejudices known as Hawaii.
I can get lost in the conversations alone that Plakcy lays out for his characters. It can sound like music, all soft and flowing with all those 5 vowels and 7 consonants that make up the Hawaiian alphabet, yet what they are actually conveying can be painful and harsh. Such a dichotomy originates and flows from the land itself. The author makes the reader see and feel the real Hawaii, not just those postcard beaches and Diamond Head scenes so familiar from travelogues everywhere. From the ghettos and dark streets teaming with characters as unforgettable as the cases they appear in to the hillsides where the huge and diverse Kanapa’aka family reside, this author takes us on a journey limited only by the natural boundaries of the islands. And no matter where the destination, or level of society, Plakcy imbues his characters so throughly with all the flaws and human dimension that all levels feel authentic and believable. Even the criminals here have their own language with which they impart their own rules and lawlessness yet still remained tied in their own way to their families and cultures.
Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations gets its name from a most memorable excuse an offender offers up to Kimo and his partner during an investigation. I won’t spoil the reference for you all, its just one of the many delights to be found here. Normally with a collection, I rate the stories but I can’t do that with this collection. Each brought its own groups of surprises and memorable moments. Some ended abruptly just as shaggy dog stories should, others continue to the final satisfactory ending you would hope for. The end result of them all is to send me once more back to that first story and being my journey with Kimo all over again.
When I think of fine regional voices, the ones that pull you immediately into a culture and region, Neil Plakcy jumps immediately to mind. His Mahu series should be on everyone’s list of Must Have, Must Read stories and series. And Kimo Kanapa’aka rates just as highly among the detectives I have come to know and love. Let this collection be a quick introduction to this marvelous series and author. And then let it guide you back to all the other fine stories and a romance and love affair to savor. I highly recommend them all.
Cover art by Kris Jacen. I love the cultural feel of this cover. Works perfectly for this collection of stories.
Published August 22nd 2014 by MLR Press
Books in the Mahu series in the order they were written and should be read for character and relationship growth and timelines:
- Mahu (Mahu #1)
- Mahu Surfer (Mahu #2)
Mahu Fire (Mahu #3)
Mahu Vice (Mahu Vice #4)
Mahu Blood (Mahu #5)
- Zero Break (Mahu #6)
- Mahu Men: Mysterious and Erotic Stories (Mahu #6.5)
- Natural Predators (Mahu #7)
Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations