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THE OLD QUEEN'S MURDER


By Michael A. Herr

Published by Lulu.com, 2007 ($14.95)
ISBN-10: 1430316519
ISBN-13: 978-1-4303-1651-0

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

In the back seat of a Chevy in 1955, a condom breaks, and nine months later a beautiful blond, blue-eyed boy is born to a teenage mother who doesn't want him and a father who split before his birth. He learns to be quiet, fading into the background, observing as his mother entertains a multitude of men, some of whom are cruel to him, some occasionally kind, most indifferent. Five years later, his mother dumps little Eddie on her drunken, sluttish mother Helen and takes off for greener pastures. His life goes on much as it did before, with one difference. Helen has a friend called the Judge who offers the boy the first real kindness he's ever known. When Eddie is a little older, the Judge helps him out of a tight spot and takes him on as a protégée, and things go pretty well for awhile. When young Eddie becomes too old to hold the old man's interest, he cuts his losses, takes off for Viet Nam, and spends the next several years getting paid to kill for a living.

Spring forward to 2007, and the Queen's Beach Resort Hotel on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, where we catch up with the Pono family. Liz, the spinster librarian, is out of the picture now. Lori is still working full tilt managing the hotel, and Terri and her husband Frank have moved back to the island from San Francisco. They miss their son Sean, whose girlfriend Meagan is expecting their first grandchild. The baby will be a girl, just as Sean's grandmother, the keeper of the bones of Kuhina Nui, had predicted.

Business is good at the old, but still elegant hotel. Loyal and often very wealthy customers return year after year, spurning the cookie-cutter modern hotels further down the beach. One of those customers, the elderly and very particular Mrs. Worthington, has come for her annual stay, accompanied as always by her only living relative, her nephew Justin. The middle-aged errand boy is, as always, seething at the shabby way his aunt treats him, but hey, he's bound to get all that money when she's gone, so he continues to put up with it.

At a special luau held on the Pono family land, events occur that set off a chain reaction that will have deadly results. Justin meets an attractive man named Darryl, and they spend some quality time together in a secluded area. Two people notice them wandering away from the crowd: Mrs. Worthington and a charming, handsome hotel guest named Edmund Flowers. When they return, someone else notices Darryl -- his ex-wife Lori, who he informs that she really isn't his ex yet. Yes, he did cash that check, but no, somehow he didn't get around to signing the papers, and can she please help him out, he's a little -- make that a lot -- short of cash. She has a public screaming match with him, and he is told to leave the property and the hotel for good.

At the hotel the next day, there are two murders. One appears to be the victim of a serial killer who's been plaguing the island, but police detective and family friend Big Ed is not so sure. The other -- well, things don't look good for one of the Pono family members. More bodies pile up, and by the time Big Ed and the Ponos figure out what's really going on, another one of their number comes perilously close to taking the big dirt nap.

This is the second book in the series featuring the Pono family, and the series title has changed from A Kohala Coast Mystery to A Kohala Coast Thriller. Certainly the tension and the murder count has gone up several notches from the first book, THE BONES OF THE KUHINA NUI. The historical information is just as interesting, and the strength and endurance of the family through whatever comes its way is even more evident.

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