Set in Hawaii, it stars a P.I. who surfs, (well, of course). I enjoyed it because there was a lot of Hawaii info, particularly about the former leper colony located there, Kalaupapa.
Leprosy [in 1873, when the colony was established by Father Damien] was misunderstood and greatly feared, much as AIDS is today. Boat captains tossed helpless victims overboard to swim ashore. Those who drowned were the lucky ones. Those who didn’t had to fend for themselves on the isolated peninsula. Their average survival rate was about two years.
Kaluna [a mule skinner character in the book who conducted trail tours in the area] explained thta there was little to support patients here: no dependable food supply, shelter, clothing, or medicine. Helpers called kokua were permitted at first, but soon forbidden. Victims remained utterly alone, without family or friends. Kalaupapa became known as “the place where one is buried alive.”
The book is filled with Hawaiian vocabulary, and a great deal of the conversation is conducted in a kind of native pidgin, which I couldn’t decide was tedious after a while, or pretty nifty and added to the flavor of the book.
The basic plot is a young woman taking the mule ride tour around Kalaupapa falls over a very steep cliff and dies, when her mule stumbles. Her estranged sister approaches our P.I. to investigate what she is sure is a murder, contrary to all evidence.
Our boy’s investigation leads to a tangle of property developer interests and his attempts to prevent developers from sucking up the land around the former colony in order to construct some kind of elaborate resort.
I think Hawaii has been plagued for quite a while with the battle between the developers and the people who like their islands just the way they are, thank you very much, so it is a timely plot.
Good writing — and by that I mean correct grammar, decent sentence structure, that kind of thing — but somewhat flat characters and an ending that seemed awfully abrupt. I actually hadn’t realized it ended until the next page was an description of how the book came to be. But I sure liked the info about Kalauapa