BLOOD ORCHIDS By Toby Neal

cover-Blood-Orchids   This is the first of a series of four mystery/crime novels featuring Lei Texeira, a cop in the small Hawaiian town of Hilo.  She has had a tough childhood,  and is now a tough determined woman who has ambitions to rise in the police hierarchy.    Each of the subsequent titles is also named after a Hawaiian flower:  Torch Ginger, Black Jasmine, Broken Ferns.

In this debut novel, Lei finds a couple of dead teens she has previously arrested, and the race is on to find the killer.   Great storyline, and what I loved about the book was its immersion in the Hawaiian culture and environment.  This Jersey Girl is fascinated with island life, and the Pacific communities, and the descriptions felt realistic, but then, what would I know?  I’ve never been to Hawaii.  The book is sprinkled with the native patois, which adds to the great atmosphere.

There is the requisite romance with the requisite handsome manly detective.  (Can’t any of these guys ever be average, or even downright ugs?  Anyway, the romance doesn’t get in the way of the mystery, and it is a fast-paced story verging on ‘thriller’ in my personal lexicon of genres.

Mz Lei is a ballsy, sympathetic character, fighting not only the bad guys but also her own personal demons.  I like a slightly flawed main character.  More like real life, ya dig?

I have read all four books in the series, it was that good.

Just an aside:   Remember Lake Wobegone, Garrison Keilor’s fictional town, where “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”?   Well, that’s kind of how I feel about a lot of these mysteries in general.   A police force where all the bosses are self-serving ambitious jerks, and all the other cops are fearless and good looking, and all the lady cops/detectives can outsmart the rest of them without breaking a sweat.    Just saying….

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