Monday, March 16, 2009

Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson

When Deborah Turrell Atkinson first started her Storm Kayama mysteries, I had a hard time with them. Although the Hawaiian setting was beautiful, the early books had too many Hawaiian words, too much surfing, and they were too foreign for me. However, with her last book, Fire Prayer, and, now, with the new one, Pleasing the Dead, she has come into her own. The stories are stronger, the unfamiliar terms are used appropriately, and Atkinson captures the islands vividly. In these last two books, the legends, language, and descriptions serve to enhance the suspense and the stories.

Storm Kayama, a lawyer from Oahu, goes to Maui for what she assumes will be a short trip with a possible new client. Lara Farrell is a former windsurfer opening a new dive shop, and she needs legal advice as to the property and insurance. But, when Storm arrives, Lara doesn't seem to have time for her. Instead, she's involved with her business plans while her boyfriend, Ryan Tagama, is involved with his father's real estate business. The delays only serve to allow Storm to get involved where she shouldn't. The day she arrives, someone bombs a restaurant. The subsequent suicide of one of Lara's employees, and his attempted murder of his two young daughters shock her. When Storm attempts to help a surviving daughter, she becomes emotionally involved with some of Lara's staff.

Before she knows it, Storm is poking around where she shouldn't get involved. Somehow, all the violence seems to turn back to the Yakuza, a violent Japanese crime organization, with connections deep in the local community, including businesses, politics, real estate and child prostitution. It's enough to make a lawyer curious and angry. And, it's enough to make Storm Kayama a target.

Atkinson skillfully pulls all of the strings together in this mystery. All of the characters, from Storm to her boyfriend, Hamlin, to Lara and her employees, are three dimensional characters with complex motivations. Even minor characters, such as Sergeant Carl Moana of the Maui Police Department, are well done. Deborah Turrell Atkinson's last two books are fast-paced, exciting stories. And, Pleasing the Dead is a fascinating story that can be recommended to any reader for the suspense, storyline, characters, and local color. Now, I can highly recommend these books.

Deborah Atkinson's website is

Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Poisoned Pen Press, ©2009. ISBN 978-1-59058-597-9 (hardcover), 296p.