Mahu Surfer by Neil Plakcy
Kimo Kanapa’aka is a detective working on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and has recently been outed on television by his brother, who works for the local station. The Honolulu police chief decides to use Kimo’s outing as an opportunity to send Kimo undercover to investigate the surfers, and three murders on the north shore near Pipeline. Kimo is the perfect candidate since he was a competitive surfer before joining the force. The fact that he’s been outed so publicly provides the chief an opportunity to report that Kimo has left the force due to pressures regarding his sexuality.
Kimo wants to use this case as a way to regain respectability with his fellow officers, but once he begins to infiltrate the close-knit surfer community, he finds he must immerse himself in the north shore’s gay enclave in order to uncover information. Once he gets tangled within the gay web, he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into trouble, both in terms of the case and his personal life.
The story is a glimpse into a sometimes funny, sometimes sexy, sometimes sad struggle of a gay man trying to prove himself in the straight dominated field of law enforcement, while solving a murder case. Watching Kimo juggle his career aspirations, his family obligations, and his sexual needs felt very real. Although I’m not a fan of detective stories, the ending did not particularly surprise me. I found this read rather interesting because I could identify with Kimo’s struggle to blend his sexuality into his professional and family life. It was the main character, rather than the plot, that kept me turning pages.
Being a traveler, I did have one regret: I was hoping that the story would give me more of a feel for life on the islands, and there was some description of the landscape and the culture, but it came in little nibbles, certainly not enough to make a full meal. However, if you like a well written detective story, and the idea of a dark skinned, hunky, Hawaiian surfer snapping the cuffs on you ups you heart rate, then by all means, this will be an enjoyable read.