Writers lead solitary lives. That doesn’t mean, however, we who write must also lead isolated lives. On some level, I think we all want to make a contribution that will help others. Paradise, Passion, Murder: 10 Tales of Mystery from Hawai’i grew out of that desire. As a whole, the group always kept a singular focus: help improve literacy in Hawai’i by supporting Read Aloud America, which is a Hawai’i 501.c.3 organization with the same purpose.
“Paradise, Passion, Murder” is similar to other anthologies in many ways: each writer contributed one story, we had an editor, a book designer, etc. Where we differ, however, is that everyone who participated received nothing for their work other than a thank you and the knowledge that they were contributing their most valuable commodities—time and their imaginations—to the cause of helping others learn to read. Everything from our foreword, which was written by Carolyn Hart, to the cover and book layout provided by Pen 2 Ink Designs, to the editing on all stories by Lorna Collins, was donated. This project is truly a labor of love for all those involved.
Our writing team includes JoAnn Bassett, Gail Baugniet, Frankie Bow, Kay Hadashi, Laurie Hanan, Jill Marie Landis, AJ Llewellyn, Toby Neal, and CW Schutter. Most of our stories are about characters from our existing series and I thought it would be fun to share a few of those characters with you today. So, let’s talk story about a writer’s—and, hopefully, readers—most favorite subject, the characters who drive the stories.
Murder on the Road to Hana opens with my protagonist, Wilson McKenna, contemplating a life-changing decision on the far side of Maui in the Palapala Ho‘omau Church. McKenna never wanted to become an amateur sleuth, but as he puts it, “I’ve become quite adept at stumbling onto murders—and finding killers.” McKenna’s latest case, a locked-room mystery on a tour bus, could be his most difficult.
Crime of Dispassion by Gail M. Baugniet features Cacao Janus, a budding freelance reporter in Honolulu. Cacao was born on the Big Island, where her dad is a veteran homicide detective. Her dad’s best friend, a homicide detective with the Honolulu Police Department, and her grandmother try to watch her back, but Cacao’s investigative style still manages to get her tangled in the occasional local-kine murder case.
Toby Neal has a knack for writing about bad girls. Her protagonist in Clipped Wings is Consuelo Aguilar—a girl with a past. . .a brief and glorious past, as a Robin Hood-like folk hero who used a plane to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Now she is paying the price for her “crime spree,” sleeping in the bottom bunk at Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility in Ko‘olau. Consuelo’s roommate has plans to break out of the facility and use Consuelo as a bargaining chip. Can Consuelo get the help she needs from Special Agent Lei Texeira in time, or will she be a victim yet again?
In Curse of the Lost Tiki, Jill Marie Landis takes us to everyone’s favorite place on Kaua’i, the Tiki Goddess Bar, where Uncle Louie Marshall serves up drinks with aloha and solves murders. This time, though, Uncle Louie’s not sure if he’s up against a killer or an ancient Hawaiian curse.
We’ve also got JoAnn Bassett’s Pali Moon in Lei Lady Lei. Pali, born on Kaua’i and raised on Maui, is a typical thirty-something hapa haole. That is, if “typical” includes a degree in Criminology from the University of Hawai’i, a black belt in martial arts, and a former stint as a US air marshal. Pali describes her wedding-planner job as, “One pikake blossom short of drill sergeant.”
In Thoroughly Dead, we meet Kay Hadashi’s Keiko Tamura, who sheds her old life as a nurse and bar hostess for a new identity in the federal witness protection program. As part of the deal, she also ends up with a Waikīkī condo, a Japanese special forces roommate, and a very complicated relationship involving her roommate and boyfriend.
And don’t forget Frankie Bow’s Molly Barda, who found herself relegated to a remote campus on the rainy side of a small Hawaiian island. Molly is philosophical about her situation, saying, “It’s not exactly where I was expecting to end up after earning my Ph.D. from one of the top ten Literature and Creative Writing programs in the country.” When Molly’s best friend, Emma Nakamura, displays a little too much honesty in a team-building session and the object of her criticism turns up dead, it’s up to Molly to save her friend.
Those are a few of our protagonists and their stories. All of us involved in Paradise, Passion, Murder hope you’ll join us in helping to improve literacy in Hawai’i while reading about crime in the place we all love, the Aloha State.
About the author
Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark to “help” when negotiations failed.
An award-winning author, Terry’s novels receive consistent praise from readers for their complex characters and plots. Kirkus Reviews said Terry’s writing has “. . .the kind of snark that will remind readers of Elmore Leonard.”