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by Charley Memminger
Minotaur Books, January 2013
306 pages
ISBN: 125000778X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As this series debut begins, Stryker McBride (an ex-reporter on the police beat) is recovering from an injury incurred while on the job. He's living in a houseboat moored on dry land while he waits for a spot on a marina pier to open up. His job as security guard at the marina is mainly executed by his two dogs, so he spends most of his time drinking in the marina bar or on his boat. A call comes in from Amber, a beautiful woman he went to school with, asking him to look into the death of her grandfather who was an important member of the local Chinese community.

Local land developers, genetic engineering of crops, the treatment of Japanese-American families during WWII, and Chinese secret societies and gangs all play a role in the plot as Stryker finds connections between his past injuries and the present death of Amber's grandfather. In spite of the various plots coming together, there is little depth in the treatment of any of the plot strands. Stryker seems to skim along the surface of his life, and the same light touch that the author, Charley Memminger, gives to his personal life is applied to the plotting. Stryker does not seem to take anything very seriously. This resulted in my feeling as though he and others in the book were more caricatures than characters. The book is told in first person, from Stryker's point of view, and the tone is rather flippant.

There is a similar lack of depth to the setting, Memminger tosses off small hints that we are in Hawaii (aside from the frequent references to the eponymous shirts and women in bikinis): I was jogging along the shoulder of the H-3 Freeway, which is illegal as hell but gives you a great view of the length of Kaneohe Bay... But the author never gives us a feel for the locale; there's no beautiful language describing it, no sense of the humidity and weather, just Stryker's off-hand remarks. Given the exotic setting, I would have liked to feel more as though I had been transported there.

Memminger provides the greatest detail as he describes the history behind the Chinese secret societies, gangs, and criminals in Honolulu. This was an interesting aspect of the book, although even this could have been better integrated. The reader is informed as one character provides a mini-lecture for another character. Background information is provided in a direct, didactic manner.

This was a light book, perhaps best for a beach read especially a beach in Hawaii so that readers do not need the author to transport them there. If you like a faintly humorous sleuth who loves beer and appreciates the sight of a woman in a bikini more than beautiful scenery, you'll probably find this book more appealing than I did.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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