Pleasing the Dead (Hawai’i Mystery)
Deborah Turrell Atkinson
Poisoned Pen Press (2009)
Reviewed by Sandra M. Webster for Reader Views (2/09)
Even in paradise there exists a dark and seamy underside. It lurks below the bright blue water and fouls the scent of tropical flowers.
Attorney Storm Kayama finds herself wallowing in the sludge of despair that years of pain and corruption have wrought within hours of stepping off the airplane and onto the beautiful island of Kahului, Maui. What was supposed to be a routine business trip to meet with a new client, Lara Farrell, and help her set up her new dive shop, leads to everything from a terrifying encounter with a shark named Bruce, to theft, kidnapping, murder and encounters with a group of predators more terrifying than any mere sharks.
The violent and vicious Japanese crime organization, known as the Yakuza, has long standing ties to the islands of Hawaii and many of their inhabitants. Stunned to learn that even in this day and age the Yakuza are forcing underage girls into the “water trade,” or more commonly known to mainlanders as prostitution, Storm is even more concerned with the links that lead to Lara, her fiancé named Ryan, and Ryan’s father, Ichiru Tagama, a seemingly respectable real estate tycoon who seems to have a lot of cash on hand.
Also involved are Lara’s godmother and office manager Stella, who knows just a little too much about the “water trade,” and the troubled young woman, Keiko, that she has taken under her wing. When Keiko disappears with a young girl that had just been shot by her own father, it becomes apparent that the danger lurking below the surface is not all that is hiding old secrets.
The wild card is Obake, a Japanese national who comes to the United States several times a year on “business.” Ryan learns early on that Obake is a Yakuza chief and that his own father had once been in Obake’s stable. The fact that Tagama walked away from the Yakuza and lived brings up some serious questions.
“Pleasing the Dead” by Deborah Turrell Atkinson is rich in local legend and the superstition that the dead must be appeased. Deborah Turrell Atkinson is skilled at weaving Hawaiian culture into an intriguing case of danger and deception. The pace is only slowed somewhat by the frequent use of what native Hawaiian would refer to as common words. Thankfully for us mainlanders, the author does provide a glossary of most of the terms.