by Toby Neal
Out on a routine vandalism investigation, Big Island Police Officer Leilani Texeira and her partner Pono Kaihale discover the dead bodies of two high school girls in a stream in a small county park.
Lei, who has her sights set on becoming a detective, and Pono, her partner, provide early help to detectives Michael Stevens and Jeremy Ito.
Lei can identify one of the girls — Haunani Pohakoa — because she had arrested her at Hilo High School for possession of marijuana. The second girl is later identified as Kelly Andrade, who led by Haunani, seemed hell-bent on trouble.
As Lei works with Michael in the tedious process of interviewing witnesses and family members, sorting through crime scene evidence and reviewing vehicle registration databases, clues emerge but the puzzle pieces don’t fit neatly together.
As the investigation slowly moves forward, Lei receives a threatening, unsigned note in hr home mailbox. Despite Lei’s security measures and guard dog, more notes arrive, ever more personal and left closer and closer to her front door. The notes arouse nightmares of her past and threaten to drive a wedge into the relationship developing between her and Michael.
Then, a woman in her college criminal justice class, Mary Gomes, also a police officer, goes missing. Days later, her dead, beaten and raped body washes up on a local beach. She, like the girls, appears to have been drugged.
Is there one killer — or two? Is the person sending the threatening notes to Lei the killer — or someone from her distant past? The suspense never lets up until the final chapter and the surprising identification of the killer.
This is a perfect book for escaping to an exotic setting with a challenging mystery. Neal’s characters are well drawn and interesting enough to lead a reader into the other books of this series. They include:
- Torch Ginger (2012)
- Black Jasmine (2012)
- Stolen in Paradise (2013), features FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott
- Broken Ferns (2013), introduces FBI Special Agent Sophie Ang, who is the heroine of Neal’s Paradise Crime Series.
- Twisted Vine (2013)
- Shattered Palms (2014)
- Dark Lava (2014)
- Fire Beach (2014)
- Rip Tides (2015)
- Bone Hook (2015)
- Red Rain (2015)
- Bitter Feast (2016)
- The Shell Keeper, a prequel to Blood Orchids that takes place with Lei on vacation in South Carolina, and
- The Shell Seeker, which continues the vacation trip and leads to Le’s first mystery.
- Unsound (2013), features Dr. Caprice Wilson, a police psychologist who finds herself in deep crisis and sets out on a hiking trip to Maui, only to find herself wrestling with an enemy she never knew she had.
- Never Again, featuring a younger Michael Stevens and the relationship that drives him to become a cop.
- Torn Roots, which takes place during the same period as Rip Tides and involves conservation in Hana on Maui with Pono as the main character.
- Warrior Dog, which retells the story of Fire Beach from the point of view of Lei’s dog Keiki.
The Author: Toby Neal
Toby Neal is a mental health therapist who grew up on Kaua’i. She wrote and illustrated her first book at the age of 5. She left Hawaii for her education and then returned. She works with a nonprofit that deals with children. She enjoys beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking when she’s not writing.
In addition to the Paradise Crime and Lei Crime series, she has written the Somewhere romance series and the young adult book Island Fire. In addition, she co-wrote with Emily Kimelman the Scorch series.