That first line got my attention and what came after kept me reading.
Despite the Hawaiian setting, don't expect mai tais and beautiful sunsets. This story is dark and shows the seedy side of the Hawaiian islands. A few seemingly unconnected crimes pulls a young, ambitious police officer deeper into a murder investigation than she intended.
Leilani Texiera is struggling with separating her past from her current life, yet it seems to help her in the search for a serial rapist and murderer. Her ambition to make detective and her prior acquaintance with one of the victims pushes her to become part of the investigation unknowingly making her a target. Her strength and stubbornness are both an asset and a danger when dealing a with more than one bad guy.
Neal is very good at making everyone Lei comes in contact with seem like the perp. I was sure several times that I knew who the murderer was. Wrong each time. Also, this book doesn't end when you think it should and just continues with the surprises and thrills.
Source: sent for review
Read on for an excerpt from Blood Orchids and see how that first chapter just grabs your attention and makes you want to keep reading.________________________________________
A Novel by Toby Neal
Drowning isn’t pretty, even in paradise. The girl’s features were bloated by water and nibbled on by wildlife. She lay half embedded in silty mud, naked as a seal carcass. Long hair that might have been blonde wrapped around her like seaweed, one sparkly hair tie still in place on the side of her head.
Leilani Texeira grimaced at the sulphurous smell of the mud as she stepped into it, shiny regulation shoes disappearing, and squatted to inspect the body. After three years on the force in Hawaii she’d seen several drowned corpses, and had learned to stay detached as she looked for any signs of violence. Still, she was thankful for the small mercy of the girl’s closed eyes.
Her partner Pono’s voice was a bass drone interspersed with static as he called in the discovery on the radio. Lei stayed on her haunches, her eyes slowly surveying the entire overgrown area of the small county park. Invasive christmasberry bushes and clumps of tall pili grass competed along the unkempt banks. Midmorning sun leached reluctantly from under cloud cover as she spotted what looked like a bobbing coconut a few yards out. Lei glanced around—no palm trees ringed the pond.
She pushed her pant legs up and splashed forward into murky water warm as blood, clots of yellowish algae dotting the surface.
“Hey!” Pono called. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Got another one,” Lei said. The water reached her thighs. Any deeper and she’d have to go back and take off her bulky duty belt. She approached the body, floating face down. Female, small build, brown skinned and nude—Lei mentally composed the report. She extended her baton and poked the corpse, wondering if something might fall off if she touched it, but the flesh was hard. Still in rigor. These girls hadn’t been dead long.
“Let the crime techs deal with it. You know you’re not supposed to touch the body—I don’t want you to get in trouble again” She ignored Pono, in the grip of a compulsion she couldn’t put words to.
There was something familiar about this body.
She grabbed a handful of trailing black hair and gently pulled. There was bit of give, but the hair held and the body moved sluggishly at her tug. Lei steeled herself and, walking backward, slowly towed the body to shore in a parody of rescue. She backed up into the shallows, bringing the girl up onto the muddy bank, and rolled her by flipping the shoulder. The brunette landed on her back with a splash next to the blonde.
Lei sucked a breath and bit her lip, bile rising.
The eyes were open this time, and she recognized them.
Haunani Something-or-other—a sixteen year old kid with an attitude. Lei had busted her for possession at the high school a week ago. The girl’s once-brown eyes were cloudy. Her open mouth was filled with water. Rigor kept the arms raised at an angle. Haunani looked as if she were waving for help, the motion frozen forever.
Off in the distance Lei heard sirens. She staggered out of the mud up onto the grass to stand beside Pono. Her stomach crawled back down her throat as she breathed in through her nose, out through her mouth and touched the tiny cowrie she kept in her pocket.
“I know her. I mean, I knew her.”
“Who she stay?” Pono used pidgin, dialect of the Islands, when he was upset. He rubbed his mustache with a finger and she knew he wanted a cigarette.
“Remember a couple weeks ago? Drug bust at the high school? Her name’s Haunani Pohakoa.”
The last name came to her along with a memory of the girl’s cocked hip and long shiny hair. Haunani had been vain about that hair, tossing it around like a pony flicking flies. Lei wished she could forget the slick feeling of the wet strands as her heart squeezed, remembering the fragile bravado Haunani had worn like armor—an armor they shared. She’d felt an immediate connection to the girl when she met her. Lei rubbed her hands briskly on soaked uniform slacks.
Would you like to read on?
Luckily for you, I have a copy available for GIVEAWAY. If you are a US resident and enjoy a good mystery leave a comment on this post. Let me know what your favorite mystery novel is for an extra entry!
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