Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and mystery
Cons: A bit too much Pigeon English at times
The Bottom Line:
Shave ice shack body
Fam’ly dynamics, myst’ery
Make good getaway
Tracking an Ice-Cold Killer
Hawaii is an always popular vacation destination, so I’m surprised that there aren’t more cozy mystery series set there. Naomi Hirahara also saw the opening, and so she created Leilani Santiago and wrote Iced in Paradise. If you are looking to get away, this is a fun mystery.
After a few years in Seattle, Leilani Santiago has returned home to Kauai to help her family run their shave ice shack. Unfortunately, her return home means dealing once again with her family’s dynamic, including the occasional visits from her estranged father. He’s currently back in town with Luke, his young surfing protégé, for a surf competition.
Leilani arrives at work the morning of the competition to find Luke’s dead body on the floor of the shave ice shack. After a very public fight that Luke and her father had the day before, the police look to him as their prime suspect. Him being in jail would destroy the family, so Leilani begins to try to figure out what really happened. Can she find the killer?
Right off the bat, I noticed something different about this book. It is written in first person present tense. That’s not something you see very often, especially in cozies, and it took me a few pages to get used to it. However, by the end of the first couple of chapters, my brain had adapted to the style choice.
Which is also about the time that Leilani finds Luke’s body. The first couple of chapters were put to good use introducing us to characters and setting the mystery in motion. The mystery continues to give us plenty of clues and red herrings as Leilani tries to figure out what happened and clear her father. The ending is wonderful, and answers our questions.
If you are familiar with Naomi’s earlier books, you know that she is also interested in exploring family dynamics. We get that here, and it complements the mystery well without ever taking over the book. It also helps to define the characters, and we get to see them develop as the story progresses.
My one issue with the book was the Pigeon English. It is used in the dialogue, sometimes more than others, and it can make some of the dialogue hard to understand. I was usually able to figure out what the characters were saying, and there is a dictionary of the most common terms at the end of the book. But a little less of it would have been helpful for me.
I’ve only been to Hawaii once, and that was to Kauai. I enjoyed recognizing some of the locations that Leilani visited as she investigated this case. And, of course, the book made me crave real shave ice, too.
Overall, this was a fun trip to Hawaii, and I hope we get to revisit Leilani soon. Iced in Paradise will leave you feeling as if you’ve visited the islands for yourself.