Murder Casts a Shadow: A Hawaii Mystery by Victoria N. Kneubuhl

Maybe my expectations were too high. Amazon’s description of this book read

 New Year’s Eve, 1934. While Honolulu celebrates with champagne and fireworks, someone is making away with the Bishop Museum’s portrait of King Kalakaua and doing away with its curator. A series of brutal murders follows, and an unlikely pair, newspaper reporter Mina Beckwith and visiting playwright Ned Manusia, find themselves investigating a twisted trail of clues in an attempt to recover the painting and uncover the killer. 

 Prewar Honolulu comes to life in this thoroughly entertaining mystery that evokes a colorful bygone era.

I guess I had Charlie Chan, Raymond Chandler, or Dashiell Hammett in mind. That’s not what I got. I didn’t get the impression of the 30’s or any noir; this book reminded more of Nancy Drew mysteries. Ned was her boyfriend, right? With that name, I had difficulty imagining him as Samoan. Nearly all the other characters were white.

There was too much going on and too many characters. The red herrings were not persuasive; the murderer was obvious at the first appearance.

The Hawaiian history information was very interesting, and the descriptions of the islands made me want to visit Hawaii – of the 30’s.

And what was the deal with the frame for the king’s portrait? What happened to it? If it was immaterial, why mention its historic and artistic importance. Chekhov’s Gun rule states that if an unimportant element introduced early in the story becomes significant later on. In this case, much was made of the picture frame and then it disappeared from the plot.

All in all, a disappointment. I don’t plan to get the sequel.


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