Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publishers: MLR Press (March, 2012)
Openly gay homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka is back solving his sixth mystery in the Neil Plakcy’s Mahu series. A lesbian woman is found dead in what appears to be a home invasion robbery. She leaves behind an ex-partner and their adolescent daughter. But as Kimo and his partner dig deeper into the circumstances, they uncover a complex case of corporate fraud, greed, and more murders as the villains try to cover their tracks.
I have now read four of Plakcy’s Mahu series books and enjoyed the first three. With Zero Break, however, I had issues, and nearly gave up on it more than once.
The murder mystery seems to be a secondary storyline, taking back stage to Kimo and his lover’s (Mike) drawn-out discussion of whether to adopt a child. The topic is broached when Kimo finds that the murder victim, a lesbian woman, had been raising a child with her partner. This draws Kimo and Mike into a should-we/shouldn’t-we back and forth discussion that analyzes all aspects of gay adoption and parenting. Because the main thrust of the story is about gay adoption, I felt solving the mystery suffered, and the author didn’t put his usual flair into it. It seemed to me Kimo was simply going through the motions of solving a crime.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the earlier Mahu series, for me, has been Plakcy’s interesting details about island life and Hawaiian culture. That was almost totally missing from Zero Break, and I felt let down because of it.
Both the plot and Kemo’s character were not given the depth I’ve seen in the previous Mahu books. In short, I found Zero Break rather dull.