A MelanieM Review: Accidental Contact and Other Mahu Investigations (Mahu #7.5) by Neil S. Plakcy

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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.

Accidental Contact and Other coverOpenly 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.

Sales Links:  MLR Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)   amazon    Accidental Contact

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 22nd 2014 by MLR Press
ISBN13MLR1020130286
seriesMahu #7.5

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

Review: Natural Predators (Mahu #7) by Neil S. Plakcy

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Rating: 5 stars

Natural Predators coverHonolulu 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 Vice

Mahu Blood

Zero Break

Mahu Men: Mysterious and Erotic Stories

Natural Predators

I can’t find the name of the cover artist but they did a beautiful job, worthy of the story within.