Reviewers & Readers
Murder on Moloka‘i
“Hughes's pastiche of hard-boiled noir and the zen goofiness of surfing bliss is effortless and entertaining. An heiress dies in a fall from a Molokai mule and foul play is suspected! Lots of fun, and first of a series.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
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“From the moment the honey-voiced woman with the tragic story walks through private investigator Kai Cooke's door, it's clear things in Chip Hughes' genre-tweaking detective novel "Murder on Moloka'i” are not what they first appear . . .” Honolulu Advertiser
(see complete review)
Honolulu Advertiser - Wednesday, January, 12, 2005.
The Literary Exploits of the hānai PI
Author Chip Hughes of Lanikai releases first of six ‘Surfing Detective’ novels
By Michael Tsai
Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer
From the moment the honey-voiced woman with the tragic story walks through private investigator Kai Cooke's door, it's clear things in Chip Hughes' genre-tweaking detective novel "Murder on Moloka'i” are not what they first appear.
If Hughes had wanted to linger in Dashiell Hammett mode, for example, his P.I. protagonist would have answered the door wiping whiskey from his chin, not scrambling for a T-shirt to cover the dawn patrol glisten on his bare chest.
But so goes it in the west-of-center world of Kai Cooke, Surfing Detective — a world where politics, money and murder churn like winter chop off Hale'iwa.
In "Murder on Moloka'i," the first in a proposed series of six "Surfing Detective" novels, Cooke investigates the suspicious death of an environmental activist on the cliffs of Kalaupapa.
The story turns engagingly complicated as the South Shore Sherlock crosses paths with a hui of corrupt power brokers aligned with a billion-dollar trust bent on turning the former leper colony site into a luxury resort.
Cooke is a curious character. Unlike the brooding prototypes of the genre, this hanai P.I. — with shark-bite scars on his chest and an office modestly adorned with a third-place surfing trophy — prefers to do his heavy thinking atop his longboard, soul-surfer style.
The series also features an eclectic retinue of colorful side characters, including Cooke's best friend, Tommy Woo, a jazz-playing lawyer with a Catholic Chinese father and a Jewish mother.
Hughes, an associate professor of English at the University of Hawai'i and self-described "Sunday surfer," wrote "Murder on Moloka'i" nearly 10 years ago in a conscientious effort to break away from academic writing. (His first two books analyzed the short works of John Steinbeck.)
"I really wanted to write fiction and be published," Hughes said. "I looked at romance, suspense, and historical novels, but the genre that seemed most congenial to me was the detective novel."
A trip to Kalaupapa with his wife, noted literary scholar Charlene Avallone, provided Hughes with an idea for a plot. Later, the couples' frustration as prospective real estate buyers inspired Hughes' to create the fictional but awfully familiar Marie Kaleilani Chancellor Trust.
"Those were the days of the 'bad' Bishop Estate," Hughes said, chuckling. "We were looking to buy, and there was a lot of uncertainty and frustration involved. It was very personal to us at the time. The estate seems to have evolved since then."
Local readers will appreciate the diversity of Hawai'i life depicted in the novel, from plush resorts to down-and-out mill towns, downtown lei stands to Waimanalo polo fields. And with Cooke chasing leads from Honolulu to Lahaina to the Hamakua Coast, kama'aina readers may be left dewey-eyed remembering lost days of cheap interisland travel.
Hughes' rendering of local archetypes is also well-considered: a haole activist championing Hawaiian causes, a reclusive Indonesian developer, a computer consultant turned ponytailed pot-growing Deadhead.
While the novel was written to be accessible to Mainland readers, Hughes' prose is peppered with everyday Island expressions, most delivered in context without clumsy explanations, and Cooke himself code-shifts back and forth between standard and pidgin English in his dialogue.
Hughes, who grew up in Southern California and moved to Hawai'i in 1981, recruited fellow UH English professor Rodney Morales and Hawaiian scholar Ku'ualoha Ho'omanawanui to help with the pidgin.
"I tried to do it without seeming like a sell-out to local people," Hughes said. "The challenge is to write it so that it is accessible to a Mainland audience but still be OK with local people. I want to be accepted locally, and if this is not credible to local people, I can't continue."
While he isn't a hard-core reader of detective novels, Hughes said he admires the works of Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Walter Mosley and Sue Grafton. And, indeed, fans of the genre will likely pick up on Hughes' nods to Charlie Chan, the Thin Man, and other detective figures in "Murder on Moloka'i."
Hughes has drafts of two more Surfing Detective novels — "Wipeout!" and "Kula" — sitting with publisher Island Heritage, and more on the way.
"Having the first one published gives me some confidence," Hughes said. "(Cooke) has evolved over three books, and I have a better sense of who he is and what the series is about."
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“Author-surfer Chip Hughes crafts a quick reading, entertaining story . . . [F]un to read and a great companion for you on a hot day sunning at Waikiki. . . “ Waterman’s Library
(see complete review)
The Waterman’s Library. March 28, 2011.
Hawaii-Five-O Meets Raymond Chandler . . .
“Hawaii-Five-O meets Raymond Chandler. Except that Philip Marlowe surfs and speaks passable pidgin. In the first book of his Surfing Detective series, author-surfer Chip Hughes crafts a quick reading, entertaining story about Oahu detective Kai Cooke. An experienced surfer and detective, Cooke meets a beautiful Boston heiress (aren't they always hot and rich?) looking to uncover the truth about her eco-feminist sister's death (who is also hot . . . and rich).
Cooke digs into the case and begins to uncover a tangled web of corporate greed, corrupt public service officials, and dark island forces. Is this top notch literature? Nope, but that's quite fine with me. Hughes` book is fun to read and a great companion for you on a hot day sunning at Waikiki. If, like me, you enjoy pulpy detective books and the beach, then you'll enjoy Hughes` Surfing Detective series.”
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“Kai [Cooke] has an emotional, almost spiritual connection to the sun-soaked, wave-washed Hawaiian Islands. The first-person narration appeals to all five senses . . . [T]he characters are interesting, and the glimpses of setting are well-done. This book is worth reading to get yourself in an island frame of mind.”
Wish You Were Here: Travelers Real and Imagined (blog)
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Wipeout! (Wipeout! & Hanging Ten in Paris)
“A carefully crafted mystery that eschews literary pretension for quick-paced action and wild yet credible plot turns . . .” Honolulu Advertiser
(see complete review)
Honolulu Advertiser - Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Hughes' 'Wipeout' rides a wave of mystery
By Michael Tsai Advertiser Staff Writer
Like the archetypal blonde (air of sadness/legs for miles variety) whose appearance has set in motion a thousand fine detective novels, "Wipeout," the latest installment in Chip Hughes' "Surfing Detective" series, arrives in bookstores this month with a vapor trail of mystery, intrigue and deception.
This time around, the comely client with the voice "as soft as trade winds whispering in bamboo" comes calling in an unusual state: She's hapai with the child of a big-wave surfer believed to have been killed in the monster surf of Waimea, and she needs proof of her husband's death to collect on a $200,000 life insurance policy.
Anyone smell fish?
What follows is a labyrinthine journey through the world of big-wave surfing and the local drug trade as private investigator Kai Cooke, assisted by his colorful and now familiar hodgepodge of associates, attempts to make sense of a case that involves a seductive woman named Maya, a ticked-off crime boss, a map stashed at Shipwreck Beach, and, for good measure, a candy-striped surfboard.
Hughes, a professor of English at the University of Hawai'i, calls the setup for the skip-trace mystery "ludicrous ... really far out," yet what emerges from the foam is a taut, satisfying genre piece held together with bright writing and careful plotting.
Hughes, who made a splash last year with his first "Surfing Detective" novel, "Murder on Moloka'i," started "Wipeout" — which has undergone some 16 revisions — more than a decade ago.
In gathering information for the novel, Hughes, a recreational surfer, visited Maui and Lana'i and even paddled out to experience the frightful power of Waimea surf. "I didn't catch a wave, but I did get to experience what it is like to feel scared out there," he said. "There was not a wave I would have attempted."
Hughes also immersed himself in big-wave narratives by legendary surfers like Greg Noll and Fred Van Dyke (who, along with Ricky Grigg, served as consultants on the book).
The result is a carefully crafted mystery that eschews literary pretension for quick-paced action and wild yet credible plot turns.
"I don't see any heavy message to it," Hughes said. "Writing a popular novel is like throwing a party. You want to entertain people, and you hope they have a good time. I just hope people think it's a good read."
Van Dyke, who admits he isn't a "detective-type person," said he was impressed with Hughes' deft handling of local big-wave culture in "Wipeout."
"I think he understands the whole aspect of it, and he depicts it well in the book," said Van Dyke, who provided the foreword for the novel. "When he describes something, you can tell that he's feeling and touching it."
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“[W]e should be glad Chip Hughes' character has set down literary roots here, as the series is an interesting sidelong glance at the state of the life in modern Hawaii . . . Hughes gets the flavor of Hawaiian lifestyles nailed down . . . "Wipeout!" is a lot of fun, and doesn't overstay its welcome, leaving you curious about the next volume in the series. It's smart that way.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
(see complete review)
Honolulu Star-Bulletin. March 5, 2007
The surfin’ sleuth
Writer Chip Hughes uses life experience to color a book series\
Review by Burl Burlingame
The thing about living in Hawaii and then reading a novel set in Hawaii -- as opposed to a novel ABOUT Hawaii – is that you're always unconsciously checking to see if otherwise oblivious details are right. Are locations in the right place? Does the pidgin English ring true, or is it insufferable? Does it simply feel right, or are there unknown bumps and knots in what should be a smooth surface?
Surfing might have been invented in Hawaii, and the detective story might have been invented in England, but there's no reason a surfing detective series can't be set in the islands.
Mysteries are all about the hidden, while literature about Hawaii tends to be all about the surfaces. But we should be glad Chip Hughes' character has set down literary roots here, as the series is an interesting sidelong glance at the state of the life in modern Hawaii.
In "Wipeout!" detective Kai Cooke is suckered in by a beautiful -- and dangerously pregnant – blonde whose husband, a big-wave wannabe, has disappeared in the fearsome Waimea shorebreak on Christmas Eve. Is he dead? On the lam? The wife and the insurance company want to know, and are willing to pay Kai big dollars to find out.
The search takes Kai around the islands, from Chinatown dumps to swank Lanai hotels, as the vague scent of tainted drug money gets stronger. We could say more, except that laying out a road map is a sure way of ruining the pleasures of a mystery.
As in all mystery novels, the solution is of secondary importance, actually in third place, behind characterization, observation and style. Cooke has some ethical flaws, not the least of which is a stronger sense of duty to clients than to the women in his life, and
when they cross, he's fairly flummoxed, which is a rich place for a hero to be.
Hughes gets the flavor of Hawaiian lifestyles nailed down, except maybe his Panglossian view of native Hawaiian motivations. On the other hand, every local person in the book is trying to earn enough money to survive, and this subtextural fixation with
finances rings true.
"Wipeout!" is a lot of fun, and doesn't overstay its welcome, leaving
you curious about the next volume in the series. It's smart that way.
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“Wipeout! is a light, easy to read detective book that will keep you smirking while you turn its pages. Another bit of fun fiction for the summer from Chip Hughes. If, like me, you enjoy pulpy detective books and the beach, then you'll enjoy Hughes` Surfing Detective series.” The Waterman’s Library.
(see complete review)
The Waterman’s Library - April 4, 2011
Another good book from Chip Hughes
“Surfing Detective Kai Cooke is back at it, solving a new mystery in between surf sessions and quickies with hot clients. Similar to the first book in the series, Murder on Moloka'i, author Chip Hughes immerses the reader in both the idyllic and darker parts of modern Hawaii. In Wipeout! Kai Cooke is hired to look into the mysterious death of a young California surfer (named Corky) who went missing after a heavy wipeout at Waimea Bay. What starts off as a fairly routine case quickly turns into something much darker with the usual Hawaiian heavies forcing their way into the narrative. Before he knows it, Cooke has stumbled into something more dangerous than the surf break that swallowed up Corky the haole. Like Hughes' first book, Wipeout! is a light, easy to read detective book that will keep you smirking while you turn its pages. Another bit of fun fiction for the summer from Chip Hughes. If, like me, you enjoy pulpy detective books and the beach, then you'll enjoy Hughes` Surfing Detective series.”
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"[Hughes'] plot zips right along . . . His pacing is first-rate, his dialogue is snappy and this series strikes a nice balance between the Hawaii of today and the film noir memes of yesterday." Honolulu Star-Advertiser
(see complete review)
Honolulu Star-Advertiser – April 15, 2012
Surfing detective on a dog's trail, in deep kim chee
By Burl Burlingame
"Kula," by Chip Hughes (Slate Ridge Press, $14.95)
Another in Hughes' "surfing detective" series, this episode finds investigator Kai Cooke on the trail of a dog, instead of the other way around. Not just any dog: Kula is a surfing dog whose master is a millionaire, and, oh, yes, his wife is also missing. Initially bummed by this penny-ante assignment, Cooke soon winds up blamed for a murder. Hughes clearly has a love of potboiler mysteries, and his plot zips right along with genuine cliffhangers. His pacing is first-rate, his dialogue is snappy and this series strikes a nice balance between the Hawaii of today and the film noir memes of yesterday. But the question remains: Can a guy who wears slippahs still be a gumshoe?
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"A must-read for dog lovers, surfers-at-heart, and mystery fans alike." Island Dog,
(see complete review)
Island Dog, Summer 2012
By Chip Hughes
Private investigator Kai Cooke is in for the letdown of his career. He’s hired to track a lost dog named Kula, a famous surfing dog. With the help of Maile Barnes, an ex-K9 cop, Cooke unlocks the dark underworld of animal theft in the island. Along the way, events turn Cooke into the prime suspect for a murder. Author Chip Hughes authentically depicts Hawaii and its people. A must-read for dog lover, surfer-at-heart, and mystery fans alike!
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"Kula is an easy reading, fun way to pass time on a summer beach day."
--Stoke Report: The Waterman's Library
(see complete review)
Stoke Report - The Waterman’s Library – April 2011
Everyone’s favorite surfing detective, Kai Cooke, is back on another case in Chip Hughes’ latest book, Kula. Like the other books in the Surfing Detective series (Murder on Moloka’i and Wipeout!), Kula is an easy reading, fun way to pass time on a summer beach day. In Kula, detective Cooke is living with the pathetic combination of a dearth of business and a stack of bills, which unfortunately forces him to lower his already abysmal standards and take a case to find a lost surfing dog (yep, a surfing dog). Pride in shambles, Cooke begins the work and, as you’d expect, quickly finds out that this case is much more than he anticipated. Not surprisingly, Hughes manages to weave in a bit of surfing and debauchery for good measure. Yes, this is detective writing 101, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time. Besides, Hughes doesn’t to pretend to be delivering the great American novel. Nope, this is just fun-reading detective pulp that will help you pleasantly pass an afternoon or two on the beach. By the way, while it starts off a bit slow, be patient as the story picks up after about fifty pages. Fun stuff. (April 2011)
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Reader Reviews (from amazon.com):
Murder on Moloka‘i
Great Book - Great Character!! June 1, 2006. Horror writer from TN (Morristown, Tennessee United States). I read this book while vacationing on the island of O'ahu, and I simply could not put it down. This is one mystery that kept me turning pages until I was finished, and the character of "The Surfing Detective", Kai Cooke, is a great one. While making this character totally unique, Chip Hughes has taken some of the better attributes of some of our most beloved detectives and given them to Kai Cooke. If you can picture Magnum, P.I. with a touch of a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, you would have Kai Cooke. I thoroughly urge you to give this author and this story an opportunity to impress you as I
was impressed. You will finish the story with a 'Mahalo' to Chip for one fine story! I cannot wait until further volumes about the surfing detective become available.
Great Book! October 21, 2005. Perrault (Kula, HI). Excellent book, amazing imagery and captivating all the way through. It's not excessivly long and drawn out.
Gripping story with surprising plot twists, September 29, 2005 Reviewer: K Nguyen. Murder on Molokai is a thoroughly enjoyable read. This murder mystery novel grabs your attention from the first page and the surprising plot twists keep you on your toes.
Entertaining and informative for Hawaii fans, May 15, 2005 Reviewer: N. H. Stevens (Upstate NY). Chip Hughes writes a very entertaining murder mystery. He also refers to many places and people on Oahu and Molokai that will pleasantly jog the memories of those who have visited there, and make those who haven't visited there want to.
Chip Hughes' novel is intelligently and sometimes beautifully written, and he's created a detective, Kai Cooke, that readers will want to read about again and again. Reviewer: Linda W. Page (Philadelphia, PA). Cooke is adventurous but wise enough to know his limitations, sexy but down to earth. He's the "surfing detective" who can make jokes about Magnum and Hawaii Five O. The case Cooke is working on, solving the death of an environmental activist on the island of Molokia, keeps the reader guessing "who done it" without obscuring the chase unduly or suddenly including the one needed clue. Hughes also has done the near impossible--presenting the Hawaiian islands clearly and vividly to those who haven't yet had the pleasure of visiting them while pleasing island residents with his deft handling of a wide range of locals and their vernacular. Cooke shifts expertly between "standard" English and local "pidgin" as needed as he interviews heiresses and doctors, mule ranglers and bartenders. The characters are well drawn and appealing, especially that mule rangler. Hughes clearly likes his detective, and readers will as well (Let's hope Cooke's next adventure is in print soon!) And Hughes obviously also knows and appreciates the islands, including the "mango-tinted water" of Lanai, the aroma of the lei shop below his office, the sheer cliffs of Molokai, and the pounding surf breaks of Wakiki (yes, Cooke really does surf).What could be better than an armchair tour of the islands and a handsome, tanned detective solving the latest case?! "Murder on Molokai" is a good read.
Midwest haole loves Surfing Detective story. Walter Nugent, Chesterton, IN. Kai, the surfing detective from Honolulu, takes on a mysterious murder on Molokai, the one-time leper island, brought him by a sophisticated and beautiful client. To solve it, author Chip Hughes takes us through the islands in an ever-intensifying series of events to an explosive (and satisfying) conclusion. There's a touch of Raymond Chandler in the book, but Hughes has created his own original, and captivating, hero and style. For a reader like me, shivering in the Chicago winter, it's a warm and exotic read.
Murder Mystery Captures the Feel of Hawaii. Ed (Honolulu). Chip Hughes has written a murder mystery which truly captures the feel of the Hawaiian Islands. Despite the title, the action in this novel takes place on three different islands. As a life long resident of Hawaii, I can say with some authority that Mr. Hughes' descriptions of various island locations and his use of pidgin English is spot on. So much so that I found myself looking at the second floor windows above various lei stands on Maunakea Street imagining where the Surfing Detective might have his office. By the way, it's also an excellent murder mystery.
Great Mule Ride Murder Tale. Phyllis Wood (Oahu, HI). Unique location, plot and characters make this an exciting read! The pidgin dialect gives a rare touch of Hawaiian life. Chip Hughes is reminiscent of Tony Hillerman in his incorporation of mystery and culture. Hope this is only the first of a series of "Surfing Detective" novels.
Wipeout! & Hanging Ten in Paris
Great surfing background, March 30, 2009
By Neil S. Plakcy (Hollywood, FL)
I read this book on the plane back from Hawaii, and I can see that Chip Hughes really knows his islands, as well as his surfing. I'm not sure he really explained the central mystery of the book, but it was a quick fun read that shows Hawaii in all its colors.
Neil Plakcy, author of Mahu: A Hawai'ian Mystery (A Kimo Kanapa Mystery)
Wipeout is a Knockout of a Good Read!, March 8, 2008
S. McClure "Kukana" (Los Angeles, CA)
After reading reviews of Chip Hughes' two novels--Murder on Molokai and Wipeout--I sent for both of them and have just completed reading them both. I love reading mysteries set in Hawaii and these books fit that description to a "T". They're fast-paced, great island descriptions, keep you guessing and eager for more! I understand his next novel will be out in the fall and I can't wait for it to be released. I highly recommend both--Murder on Molokai is his first novel and gets you acquainted with the surfing detective. Wipeout continues the adventures of Kai Cooke (the surfing detective).
Hughes hits another home run!, June 27, 2007
Horror writer from TN (Morristown, Tennessee United States)
As a frequent traveler to the Hawaiian Islands, I enjoy reading well-written novels set in Hawaii. The trouble is that it is hard to find a really good one. Last year, I found one. It was "Murder On Moloka'i" by Chip Hughes. I couldn't wait for another book.
I got my wish this year with the release of his newest book, "Wipeout."
It was every bit as good (if not better) than his first novel. It tells another story of the everyday Hawaiian PI, Kai Cooke. Fans of Dashiell Hammitt and Magnum, P.I. alike will enjoy this character. I won't spoil the story for you, but I will tell you that if you want to read a wonderfully fun and entertaining novel, then Wipeout is for you! I strongly urge you to buy this book!!
Hughes really gets it right!, May 25, 2007
As a frequent traveler to Hawaii and a big mystery fan I like to combine the two and read books with Hawaiian settings. So often it quickly becomes clear that the author's use of a Hawaiian setting is a gimmick and/or based on travel brochure myth of what The Islands are like. Not so at all with Chip Hughes' books in the Surfing Detective series, Murder on Molokai and Wipeout. I was recently in Hawaii and was scanning bookshop for local authors and found the first two books in this series. Two days later after reading them both straight through, I was surprised and delighted to find both books rich in Hawaiian flavor and well written with interesting stories and characters. I highly recommend both books for fans of Hawaii, mystery detective PI fiction or just good books to read!
Hanging Ten in Paris
Way too short - I need more, please February 9, 2012
My title is not a complaint - I am impatiently awaiting Chip Hughes' next book. I have loved the whole series, which I recommended to my brother-in-law ( a Calif surfer who lived on Oahu's North Shore in his younger days) and he began reading again! These books are not "literary meat and potatos" - they are light, fun, culturally and geographically correct. Mr. Hughes' character is not some James Bond super-suave-sleuth (few people actually know that the role of Thomas Magnum was supposed to be the smooth, wealthy detective that got all the women......it was Tom Selleck who redefined the way he wanted to play the role.) Mr. Hughes' characters have an identity of their own, and have a realism about their lives......failures, flaws, bad relationships, problems paying the bills. These are just a fun read, and I understand "The Surfing Detective" has been optioned for TV. I hope Hollywood does it justice and gives Chip Hughes some artistic authority on stories and scripts.
Another Cool Detective Story by Chip Hughes, July 24, 2011
"Kula", the third in Chip Hughes' Surfing Detective series, is a real winner; every bit as good as his first two books. Again set in Hawaii, Mr Hughes captures some of the nuances of Hawaiian life while spinning a great yarn. Our hero reluctantly takes on the case of a missing pet that develops into murder as well as missing persons. His description of the puppymill/petnapping world is an eye-opener and quite interesting. Read this book if you are a pet-lover, a detective story lover, or love Hawaii: you will not regret it.
Chip Hughes Has Done it Again, April 6, 2011
S. McClure "Kukana" (Los Angeles, CA USA) -
This is the third book in the Surfing Detective series and I was not disappointed. I love reading mysteries set in Hawaii and I also love pet detective types of books so I have the best of both worlds with Kula. It's fast paced, gives good descriptions of the locale, and he introduced a new character to the series, a character I hope will continue into future novels which I'm already eager to read. When will the next book be out???????
Another Great Set From the Surfing Detective, March 17, 2011
Joe Guiney "Publisher" (La Jolla California)
"Kula," Chip Hughes third book, is another killer tube ride in the Surfing Detective series. Like the previous two books, this one is short (250 pages) and sweet. As the story opens Kai Cook has been hired to find a wealthy gold dealer and radio personality's titular golden retriever. Kai can't believe how far he's fallen, turning into Ace Ventura, and now every other message on his answering machine is another distraught pet owner. But like every story Kai gets himself into, things are in no way what they seem. As always, Cook manages to squeeze in some board time--seems like there's always a good swell running when he's got detective work to do. We get to know Tommy Woo, Kai's piano-playing, dirty joke cracking attorney a little better, and there's more of Kai's pidgeon interviews with locals than in previous books, and I really love that dialect, which Hughes just nails every time. I understand Chip has three more books in the works, and I can't wait. His first book: "Murder on Moloka'i" is just about the most perfect detective story I have ever read, and his second: "Wipeout!" is a minor masterpiece filled with vividly limned characters, including the TWO widows of big-wave rider who disappeared in a wipeout at huge Wiamea. It's all been just great stuff, and now "Kula" is pure gold.
Kula - Highly Recommended, March 11, 2011
Kent Bridwell -
These comments are inspired by my reading of "Kula" recently. For the most part, though, my observations actually pertain to all three of the Surfing Detective novels so far published; i.e., including "Murder On Molokai" and "Wipeout!" First, I appreciate that the author, Chip Hughes, has chosen to write in the first person. Plot development is somewhat more difficult when everything happens through the protagonist's real-time perceptions (with a little assistance from occasional flashbacks, of course). Yet, this method tends to personalize the reading experience, allowing the reader to become more directly involved with the story. Moreover, the Surfing Detective, Kai
Cooke by name, exhibits a wry sense of humor in his manner of describing the events and predicaments that ensnare him. His story-telling is most enjoyable. Second, Mr. Hughes consistently achieves a perfect balance as among the use of action, dialogue, self-reflection and what one might call "scene setting" (descriptions of people and places, etc.) . Too many writers get bogged down with one or another of these elements, which can cause a story to descend into tedium. Mr. Hughes manages to keep it all in good harmony, and his stories all proceed at an agreeable pace. This makes reading a true
delight rather than a chore. Third, the plots are imaginative, intriguing and quite captivating. The stories unfold in a sequence of twists and suprising revelations, all in keeping with the classic detective/mystery genre. Also, unlike many of that breed, it is easy to follow the evolution of these stories (i.e., without becoming confused and having to go back and re-read earlier passages for clarity). It's a cliche, I know, but I really do have trouble putting the Surfing Detective books down after starting them. Fourth, the characters are real and alive, yet colorful and intriguing at the same time. None are perfect, and all have flaws, including Kai Cooke himself (perhaps a number of flaws in his case). In other words, the characters are just like real people (except a lot more interesting than most). I especially enjoy the exchanges in pidgin. Finally, with respect to "Kula," I feel obliged to lodge one negative sentiment regarding the story's end. It leaves the reader with an uncomfortable sense of uncertainty, and I think that an appropriate epilog would have been welcome. I will not give anything away by describing what plot threads were left loose, but I was a bit disappointed that they were not neatly tied off. Be that as it may, "Kula," like its predecessors, is an excellent and entertaining book. I look forward to Kai's next adventure, and I hope that there will be many more to come.
Tropic page turner, February 14, 2011
Maurice Yves (Tucson, AZ. USA)
Kula is another Surfing Detective page turner! I was transported to Hawai'i through author Chip Hughes' vivid descriptions of spectacular Island locations. The characters come to life through their dialogue, sometimes in colorful pidgin English. We accompany Kai Cooke in another fast-paced mystery adventure. Bravo!