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on November 29, 2011
It's not easy to write a story that takes place in Hawaii for a wider audience and do it well. Many authors write from an outsider's perspective, throwing out careless mistakes which cause local readers to groan in the same way they suffer the mispronunciation of famous street names or landmarks on Hawaii Five-O. Other writers spend so much time explaining why Hawaii is the way it is, they lose the rhythm of the narrative and distract from the story they are trying to tell. Another common trap is to use local expressions without bothering to explain what they mean.

The late Ian MacMillan could strike the right balance, and Toby Neal can, too. The main character in Blood Orchids--Lei Texeira--grew up partly in Hawaii, partly in California. Having Lei for a main character is like having a cultural interpreter to show you what it's really like to live in Hilo, on the island of Hawaii. The authenticity is there, the local flavor and texture are there, too. But the contemporary social issues are in the background. This story is about a very human and likeable cop with more than a couple of things to prove. Her friends, family, enemies, and the things that happen to her and around her make this a compelling read.
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on April 14, 2012
Lei Texeira has stumbled upon two bodies floating in the water in Hilo, Hawaii. Lei is a police officer trying to work her way up to detective and knowing one of the victims she feels compelled to help with the investigation. Michael Stevens a detective from California is leading the investigation and enlists Lei to help.

The character of Lei is slowly revealed throughout the story and I felt such empathy for her and the horrific struggles she went thru as a child. She is a feisty, complicated and tortured woman who wrestles with her demons and does her job with determination.

Detective Michael Stevens is a straightforward detective who has lived through some childhood trauma of his own. His relationship with Lei takes a personal turn and he becomes very protective of her.

Toby Neal's colorful descriptions of the lush landscape of Hawaii made me feel as if I was there. The attention to detail of the diverse vegetation and volcanoes painted a beautiful backdrop to this story. I appreciated that the characters used a Hawaiian dialect defined as pidgin which made for interesting dialogue.

The character of Lei was extremely multi-layered and complex and brought to life with compassion and fervor. The mystery is packed with tension, fast paced and held me enthralled while driving me forward.

I definitely recommend this book to all readers, you will not be disappointed!

Marilou George - The Kindle Book Review
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on December 2, 2011
I found Blood Orchids to be a captivating story with engaging characters in well described settings. If, like me, you are a fan of crime/mystery novels with a series character, then you will want to add Toby Neal's Lei Texeira to your list. I look forward to reading more about the exploits of this feisty and complex Hilo, Hawaii cop.
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on April 12, 2012
I've just finished reading Blood Orchids by Hawaii Mystery Author Toby Neal, and I'm still all jittery. It has nothing to do with coffee, either. The author builds a convincing web of horrors around main character Lei Texeira, and after reading this book I'm going to have a hard time relaxing again.

Lei is a police officer in Hilo, Hawaii, working to make detective and in the meantime keeping the lid on gangs, solving murders, and by the way also fending off her own personal stalker. The layers of this woman's history build slowly and naturally in this lush, tropical mystery. When the book opens, in classic murder mystery style, Lei has discovered two female victims floating in a creek, drowned and clearly murdered.

Lei herself was raped at age nine, and her mother died soon after of an overdose while her father was hauled off to prison. The girl grew up in a world that we call dysfunctional, but that makes it sound way too clean and nice. More like a world of pain and hurting, of bruises and scars and daytime nightmares and nighttime terror. As a result, flowers in Lei's world now that she's an adult feel almost like something venomous while her favorite gun, the Glock 40, earns her kisses and caresses. Lei has serious issues, as she is the first to admit.

I like it that the author is not afraid to make the characters talk in Hawaiian dialect. "'Someone been making trouble for me. I like you make it stop,' Lei said in pidgin." She handles this expertly, and you feel not only like you are in Hawaii, but like you are navigating between different social classes on the streets of second-city Hilo, Hawaii. I guess it's like Oakland compared to downtown San Francisco.

A California detective, Michael Stevens, has been brought in from the mainland to beef up the Hilo police force, and of course he chooses Lei Texeira to help him solve the murders. I'll give you one guess what happens next between Stevens and Lei Texeira. Although this developing romance fits the formula, it somehow acquires a unique twist when the two stick to rather Victorian rules of engagement they establish together: the romance can only begin once the murders are solved. This creates some interesting situations, especially when Lei's dysfunctional past rears its ugly head and threatens the budding relationship. These things are never easy!

I'm still getting over my jitters, but I've realized this book has it all. A beautiful lush setting in Hawaii, overflowing with exotic plants like Christmasberries, mango trees and, yes, orchids; a cast of gritty, sympathetic characters; a plot that keeps turning in on itself like a fugue; and dialogue laced with interesting local dialect. There's a lot of murder mysteries to choose from out there. You won't be disappointed with Blood Orchids.
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on November 29, 2011
This book reaches out and grabs you from page 1. Lei is a smart, spunky, and complicated crime-solver who is in the midst of a homicide investigation on the island of Hawaii. Packed with information about what it is like to really live in the islands, as contrasted to the tourist experience, this book leaves you wanting more!
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on January 23, 2013
Lei is a policewoman in Hilo, Hawaii who wants to be a detective. She and her partner discover the bodies of two young women and the "campsite" where they were killed. It is a good beginning but the story goes downhill from there. Lei has a whole basketful of personal and family problems and enough stalkers to make your head swim. The story tries to do too much with too many problems and too many characters that are similar to one another. The "love story" part is unconvincing and reads like a Harlequin romance.

Some of the characters are interesting, and some like the partner, are paper doll cut outs.

The overall tension in the novel seems to be level and doesn't build well. It also seems to have three sequential endings. This stems from the problem of too many similar characters. I think the book would benefit from an in-depth rewrite and a focus on the crime at hand.

I will read another in the series to see how the author has progressed because the basic setup is interesting and the location is exotic.

I would not recommend the book.
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on March 17, 2012
This is one of the few free books that I actually read all the way through so it must have something going for it. Honestly though, I don't really know what. It is basically just another, not terribly fascinating, crime story about a female police officer trying to catch a rapist and murderer and of course she has an attractive male senior officer and it is just all too obvious where that is going...
The main character has had a troubled childhood which affects her in several ways as an adult, and that could have made her rather interesting if the character had been better developed. But what happens is that there is just too much of everything, too many mental scars, too many creepy guys that ask her out, too many villains, too many life-threatening encounters with the bad guys and so on.
The third star is for the Hawaiian setting which is rather unusual and adds some flavour to the story, otherwise it wouldn't have been more than two stars.
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on April 27, 2012
Mildly appealing main character - a woman police officer in Hawaii's Big Island. She is carrying tons of baggage - childhood rape victim, effectively abandoned by her parents [dad in prison, mom totally junked-out] then raised by a loving aunt. She is stalked by two guys at the same time, plus has a creepy neighbor. After she caught the murderer, there was an additional story and I skimmed through most of that just to finish the book. The love interest with another policeman is totally plastic and could have easily been left out. Another unbelievable character was the head of the Hawaiian crime family. That needs work as well.

The most interesting character was the psychologist who works with police officers.

Also, when an author drops a bomb such as asserting that most women cops are victims of childhood violence, often rape, and that most men cops are violence-prone, often spousal-abuse, even in a novel it is a good idea to include a footnote to an authoritative source.
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on April 6, 2013
I thought the plot was good. However .. a gun carrying police officer who has black-outs and is allowed to remain on duty? You've got to be kidding! Not someone I'd want as MY partner!
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on March 4, 2012
BLOOD ORCHIDS (THE LEI CRIME SERIES) is a spellbinding mystery packed with suspense, action and murder. All the ingredients required for a great captivating story. Well written with a good balance of different characters. This is the beginning of what's going to be a good series. A must read. Highly recommended.
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