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The Waikiki Widow (Rue Morgue Vintage Mysteries) Paperback – October 1, 2003
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I didn't enjoy this book as much as the others in the series. The narrative lacks the clarity of earlier books. And the personalities of the two sleuths, Janice Cameron and Lily Wu feel less vivid than usual.
The Waikiki Widow was published in 1953, last of the series. Maybe the author was just out of steam. The beautiful widow is a bit of a stereotype, as femme fatales tend to be. The Asian characters are more nuanced. Juanita Sheridan was free the prejudices of her times. This is one of her strong points.
For fans of vintage mysteries, I would definitely recommend the earlier books, starting with The Chinese Chop. The brief introduction appearing in all four books paints a fascinating picture of Sheridan and her adventurous life.
This particular plot involves 99 precious pearls stolen from Madame Li in China, then smuggled into Hawaii. Lily Wu, with the help of Janice Cameron, determines to find the pearls. Lily poses as a wealthy tea buyer and Janice as a secretary. Under this guise they investigate in both Hawaii and New York, as well as on board an ocean liner from San Francisco to Hawaii. The title character, the Waikiki Widow, is one Lady Blanche Carleton, who is either a fortune-hunter or a thief. Or possibly both.
The main characters, two independent young women, are appealing and refreshing, and the plot, while it moves back and forth and sideways a bit too much, does hold a reader's interest. I recommend the whole series, starting with the first book.
The plot itself is fast moving and relatively complex revolving around missing pearls and strange goings on centering on a tea importing business. The widow of the title is a newcomer to the islands with no visible means of support who seems to be at the center of attraction of most of the characters.
I would recommend starting with the first Wu/Cameron book, "The Chinese Chop", to get the full story behind the Wu/Cameron partnership, but this is not strictly necessary.
In short, these neglected mysteries are highly recommended.