REVIEW: Death of a Messenger by Robert B McCaw (Koa Kane Hawaiian Mysteries #1)

Series: Koa Kane Hawaiian Mysteries

Book Number: 1

Read this book for: Hawaiian mystery, US mystery, whodunnit, police procedural, damaged detective, thriller

Quick Review: Unique setting, interesting topics and a decent plot make this an interesting mystery to pick up, especially if you’re stuck in a reading rut!

On Hawai’i Island, an anonymous 911 caller reports a body at Pohakuloa, the Army’s live-fire training area. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane, a cop with his own secret criminal past, finds a mutilated corpse—bearing all the hallmarks of ancient ritual sacrifice. Koa encounters a host of obstacles as he pursues the murderer—an incompetent local medical examiner, hostility from both haoles (Westerners) and sovereignty advocates, and a myriad of lies. Koa races to discover whether the victim stumbled upon a gang of high-tech archaeological thieves, or learned a secret so shocking it cost him his life and put others in mortal danger. Will Hilo’s most respected detective stop this sadistic fiend—or will the Pohakuloa killer strike again, with even deadlier consequences?

DEATH OF A MESSENGER is a Hawaiian police procedural, which ties together a fascinating range of topics and an interesting plot for a solid and unique read.  This is the first novel in the Koa Kane series that centres around Chief Detective Kane, head of the Hilo investigative branch in Hawaii. Kane has a bit of a dark past that is hinted at, and I am looking forward to more novels in this series to see how that develops. It’s also a good starting place for the series; enough setup with the characters without feeling too much like an establishing novel. 

And it has an impressive opening array of topics. This novel ranges from archaeological discoveries to astronomical discoveries. McCaw has clearly done his research on both topics and the portions of the novel that delve into the history and archaeology of the Hawaiian islands are quite fascinating. It’s a unique topic and woven throughout in a way that never feels forced; the book is worth a read just for this bit of history that’s very atypical for this type of novel. The setting also adds an interesting reason to read. The logistics of detective work on the Hawaiian islands lend a special set of challenges to the proceedings, and they add colour to this mystery. From volcanic caves to Naval installations, helicopters to boats, mountain snow to beaches, this mystery is a tour of the islands, outside of the tourist hotspots. 

That backdrop and range of topics makes a decent plot even better. Without spoiling anything, what appears to be a fairly typical thriller plot turns out to be satisfyingly complex, and blends well with the various unique elements of this novel. 

DEATH OF A MESSENGER is an interesting break from the typical dreary, rainy mystery novels, with its own special island flavour. 

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