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POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

Storm Kayama, lawyer and reluctant detective, stumbles into murder and misdeeds once again in her fourth starring role, “;Pleasing the Dead,”; the new mystery from Honolulu writer Deborah Turrell Atkinson.

               

     

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

        » Thursday: Noon, BestSellers, 1003 Bishop St.; 7 p.m. wine and cheese party, BookEnds, 600 Kailua Road

        » Friday: 7 p.m. mystery workshop on villains, Barnes & Noble Kahala Mall

        » Saturday: 2 p.m. book signing party, Barnes & Noble Kahala Mall
       

”;Pleasing the Dead”;
        by Deborah Turrell Atkinson
        Poisoned Pen Press
        $24.95

       

 

       

In Storm, Atkinson has a protagonist well suited to the genre of lady-detective fiction. She's young and growing up in the novels. She's got a relationship but it's troubled; a colorful family but one with some secrets; a heart of gold but a propensity to attract trouble.

What distinguishes Atkinson's fiction is the way she weaves into her stories both Hawaiian legends and ocean sports—in “;The Green Room”; (2005) it was surfing; in this book it's diving, particularly excursions in search of sharks, which helps set up some of the drama.

Only some of it, though. “;Pleasing the Dead”; also involves the yakuza and child prostitution, as Storm heads to Maui for the seemingly benign purpose of helping a former windsurfing pro, Lara Farrell, with the legalities of setting up a dive shop.

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But it quickly becomes clear that Lara's life, business, boyfriend, boyfriend's dad and employees are all tangled up in deceptions and old hurts ready to boil over. In fact it's all so complicated that the story gets hard to track as the finale approaches.

You have to root for Atkinson, though, building a mystery series based in Hawaii, distributed nationally by a specialty publishing house. It's not self-consciously ethnic or “;local,”; and thankfully is nothing like the many novels that read as though written by someone who spent a few weeks camped out at a resort here.

Here's hoping Storm continues to stumble upon trouble in paradise.