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Murder Casts a Shadow: A Hawaii Mystery (A Latitude 20 Book) Paperback – July 25, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Hawai'i Mystery Series

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

New Year's Eve, 1934. While Honolulu celebrates with champagne and fireworks, someone is making away with the Bishop Museum's portrait of King Kalakaua and doing away with its curator. A series of brutal murders follows, and an unlikely pair, newspaper reporter Mina Beckwith and visiting playwright Ned Manusia, find themselves investigating a twisted trail of clues in an attempt to recover the painting and uncover the killer.

Honolulu in the 1930s is a unique (and volatile) mix of the provincial and the urban, East and West, islander and mainlander. Mina and Ned, both of Polynesian descent, confront the complexities and contradictions of Island life as their investigation takes them into the heart of Honolulu society and close-knit local families, whose intricate histories and relationships will have a direct impact on future lives and events. A lively cast of characters aids Mina and Ned in their search for answers: Cecily Chang, an antiques and explosives expert, steers them through Chinatown's back alleys; Hinano Kahana, a hula chanter and dancer, brings Ned closer to solving an ancient riddle; Mina's grandmother, Hannah, helps them unlock a secret from the past.

Prewar Honolulu comes to life in this thoroughly entertaining mystery that evokes a colorful bygone era.

About the Author

Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, the author of Hawai'i Nei: Island Plays, is a well-known Honolulu playwright and writer. Her work has been performed in Hawai'i and elsewhere in the Pacific, the continental U.S., Britain, and Asia. She is currently the writer and co-producer for the television series "Biography Hawaii."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press; 1 New edition (July 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824832175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824832179
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerald Vercesi on May 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This story vividly depicts the Old Hawai'i, a time more of locals than tourists. While today's reader will recognize many of the locations, imagining them some seven decades earlier adds to the mystique of the tale. The author's background in theater brings the behind-the-scenes alive as the story moves from museum to playhouse and back. This is a solid mystery with many potential suspects, especially well done for a first novel. It leaves the reader yearning for more, perhaps a sequel for the characters to continue life in paradise.
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Format: Paperback
I saw this book in a small book shop near the Hawaiian Village Hilton when on vacation --- we went on to Maui, but when we returned for our last night before flying out---they were all sold out. One of the first things I did on our return was order this book from Amazon. And was I glad I did.

She creates the Hawaii that was--in ways that I could correlate it with the Hawaii that I saw in 2008. Great insight into her characters, the Hawaiian stage productions, and their sense of history and connection to the royal family.

I highly recomemd this book, and I look forward to the next book based on these characters.
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Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first novel by Hawaii resident Victoria Kneubuhl, who is a well-known playwrite in the Hawaiian islands. Her characters were engaging and the mystery was well-crafted. It artfully gave the reader a glimpse into an earlier era of life in Hawaii, and especially what it might have been like to be an ambitious female before it was considered socially acceptable. I hope to see more mysteries from this writer.
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By Ohioan on December 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many good things in this book. The setting, Hawaii in 1934, is wonderfully depicted. The characters are varied and interesting. The plot ties into Hawaiian history and the American cabal that rode roughshod over the wishes of the Hawaiian people and the Hawaiian monarchy. The plot has a few twists, and the two main protagonists get to island hop in order to solve the mystery. I had a good feeling reading this book about another time, another place.

A few things bothered me, though, and one was Point of View. The author jumps around from Mina's to Ned's point of view, usually in little sections, but sometimes in the same paragraph, which is disconcerting, sort of like a loud, unexpected crash. Because the author has two heroes, there is less drive and less tension. The story doesn't drive toward a conclusion, it kind of ambles toward the conclusion from a couple of different directions. And in regard to the solution of the mystery, I never find it satisfying when the "answer" comes to somebody in a dream or a vision.

The author also did not verify slang expressions from the 1930s. She has one character tell another to not "get bent out of shape." Reading this in a 1930s setting startled me, so I checked a very good slang dictionary, which listed that particular idiom as entering American English after the year 1950.

This novel's strongest features are the setting and the characters. If you like mysteries and like Hawaii, I suggest that you read Murder Casts a Shadow.
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As Honolulu welcomes the year 1935 with various festivities, a priceless portrait of Hawaii's King Kalakaua is stolen and museum curator Abel Halpern, a man widely loathed (and possibly crooked) is clubbed to death. More murders follow, prompting an unlikely pair of sleuths, visiting playwright (and sometime spy for the British government) Ned Manusia and local newspaper reporter Mina Beckwith, who delve into the mystery to find those responsible. Their investigation takes them far and wide, from Chinatown to the Big Island, and provide a variety of suspects covering the width and breadth of Hawaiian society, including Mina's own twin sister Nyla and her husband (and Ned's friend) Todd Forrest, Honolulu's Chief of Detectives.
Besides serving as an unofficial escort for the portraits of the Hawaiian King and Queen, Ned is also in the process of helping with the local production of his new play which features various suspects among the cast and crew. Both of Polynesian descent, Mina and Ned continue to dig deeper, and despite their best efforts, they must also contend with their growing affection for each other.
Kneubuhl effectively mixes Hawaiian history and fascinating, colorful characters in a complex mystery that is a spellbinding page-turner that keeps the reader wanting more. I'm looking forward to checking out the next book in Kneubuhl's series, "Murder Leaves Its Mark."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought the book because I thought it would be an interesting read--Hawaii in the 1930's and a murder mystery. Unfortunately, the writing is mostly dialogue, rather simplistic, and the characters are predictable.
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The best thing about this story is the glimpse into life in Honolulu in the 1930’s. The writing is solid, I love mysteries, and there is an intriguing mystery going one here that is solved satisfactorily. Looking forward to the next book in the series!
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This novel is truly a work of art. It's obvious that the author did a great deal of historical research. It was fun to hear about the Hawaii of yesteryear and enjoy hearing of familiar places in the islands. The character development was amazing, drawing me in form the beginning. I would imagine that if you didn't know anything about the Hawaiian language, it might be a slightly frustrating read, but don't let that deter you from being completely entertained and schooled about the subtleties of island culture. I love how there are several story lines to easily follow & how they all get wrapped up into nice endings.
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