Deborah Turrell Atkinson's third Storm Kayama novel, Fire Prayer, is her best mystery yet, an exploration of secrets and culture in the Hawaiian Islands. Storm's trip to Moloka‛i is one more key that unlocks the past, a past that has haunted a small close-knit community.
Storm, a lawyer, accompanies her partner and lover, Ian Hamlin, on a business trip to Moloka‛i, but hopes to spend most of the time vacationing with her beloved Uncle Keone and Aunt Maile. Hamlin is looking into the disappearance of a wealthy client's son, while Storm plans to look up the ex-wife of a high school friend, Tanner Williams. Events quickly spin out of control, when Tanner's wife is murdered, and his son, the young boy who called 911, runs away from the hospital, where he was treated for diabetes. Tanner has his own problems with his bipolar disorder, and he might not be capable of dealing with his son's needs.
It seems natural that in a small community, Storm and Hamlin's interests collide. Ten years earlier on Moloka‛i, there was a fatal fire, and the oldest son of Hamlin's client died. Tanner was part of a circle of friends who had been protesting development on the island, men who were suspects in the fire and death. While horseback riding, Storm's friends and family stumble across the body of the missing second son, and once again suspicion falls on the same small group. In parallel stories, Atkinson tells of Storm's search for answers that might be linked to the past, and Tanner and Luke's current troubles. Those parallel tracks hint at a connection between the fire and murders ten years later.
Storm identifies with Luke because when she was twelve, her bipolar mother committed suicide. Now, she and others are looking for another child exposed to violence, and coping with a parent with bipolar disorder. Atkinson skillfully weaves Storm's story and issues with Hamlin into the story of the Moloka‛i community. Storm Kayama is a sensitive, caring woman who knows how she could have struggled, if it hadn't been for her aunt and uncle.
Fire Prayer is a complicated story. Unresolved issues in the past are still haunting the island. Atkinson says, "Like tangled and hungry flames, tendrils of violence reached from the past and tormented individuals today." Atkinson's gift lies in her ability to bring an enchanted world of beauty to life. She also shows that secrets and anger can destroy the most beautiful world. In Atkinson's Fire Prayer, lives are destroyed, and paradise ruined, by man's fears. Deborah Turrell Atkinson points out that man himself is the serpent in that tropical Eden.
Deborah Turrell Atkinson's website is www.debbyatkinson.com
Fire Prayer by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2007, ISBN 978-1-59058-402-6 (hardcover), 296p.