Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Book Review: Blood Orchids, by Toby Neal

Blood Orchids, by Toby Neal
(Lei Crimes, Book One)
Published 2011

About the Book :
Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water—but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei's intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity. Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she's being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time.
Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei's quest for answers—and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future.
Lei is determined to find the killer—but he knows where to find her first. 
My Take:

This is more of a crime mystery with just a touch of budding romance, rather than a true romantic suspense, so not my usual genre, but I loved every tense minute of this well-written, well told story that deftly weaves Hawaiian culture and modern day police drama.

Leilani Texiera is a beat cop in Hilo on the island of  Hawaii, who wants to make the rank of detective but has a past that's holding her back. When a routine vandalism call puts her and her partner Pono in the middle of a murder investigation, she has her chance to show that she's got what it takes.

When it turns out to be the work of a serial killer on the loose, and his very next victim is not only a cop but one of Lei's close friends, she knows she's in over her head but still determined to seek justice no matter the personal cost. Add to that a stalker who may or may not be the serial killer and there's an awful lot of tension and suspense.

Michael Stevens is the head detective for Hilo P.D., and things between he and Lei take on a slow sizzle in the background of the investigation. Both have intimacy and relationship issues, which make it kind of perfect and fun to read. The author infuses the story with sarcasm, humor and heart, as well as the grittiness of the crime scenes and the utter evilness of the serial killer who gets to narrate some of the chapters from his point of view without letting the reader know his true identity right up to the harrowing conclusion.

This is the first book in a series starring Lei, and if you enjoy police procedurals you should really check these out. The exotic setting of Hawaii is tempered by the gritty underbelly and everyday slums that the police department deals with. This isn't the usual tourist view of the well known vacation destination, but rather a real city with real poverty and crime, yet a culture all their own. A fascinating glimpse at quite a different Hawaii, but one I thoroughly enjoyed exploring with this adept author.

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