Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Mai Tais and Murder
SERIES: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries #1
AUTHOR: J.C. Long
PUBLISHER: NineStar Press
LENGTH: 248 pages
RELEASE DATE: June 12, 2017
Gabe Maxfield never wanted to be a detective or a policeman or anything of the sort. The closest he wanted to come to the law was writing legal briefs and doing research for a big-shot law firm. Nice and safe, and without all the stress. No unanswered questions, just well-defined legal precedents.
When he moves to Hawaii in the wake of a disastrous breakup and betrayal by an ex, a murder investigation is the last thing he expects to get wrapped up in, but he can’t help himself when a dead body, a hunky cop, and his best friend get involved.
So much for sipping Mai Tais on the beach and admiring the well-tanned bodies around him.
After having his ex split with almost all of his money, Gabe Maxfield moves to Hawaii, where his best friend from college lives, with hopes that the islands will give him a fresh start on life. But when his best friend’s business partner is found murdered in their office, and his friend ends up as the number one suspect, Gabe has to throw himself into the mystery to save her. And himself. Because someone clearly thinks that he knows more than he does, and has no compunction about going after him for it.
Ok, first up…I love the setting of this book. It is incredibly well done. The descriptions totally made me want to visit Hawaii (and too be honest that is not something I’ve ever really wanted). Whenever the story started describing the surroundings, the food, or the local people, it really started to shine. So major kudos for that.
On the other hand, though, just about everything else let me down.
There is almost no mystery to this murder mystery. You know how after watching like a gazillion episodes of Law & Order you get really good at picking out the bad guy within like 10 minutes of the start? Yeah, that was pretty much what reading this book was like. We met the character who ends up being the murderer in this story and three words in I knew they’d done it. So that made the rest of the book extremely anticlimactic. The book did try to pull this “the man behind the man behind the mask” thing, but he was such a bad-guy cliche that it added almost nothing to the story.
Also, the cops, the private detective, Gabe…I don’t for one second believe that any of these people were capable of investigating a dog-napping, let alone a murder. Horrible, absolutely horrible policing in this book. The detective, Maka–Gabe’s love interest–is apparently fine with Gabe wandering around crime scenes, keeping key evidence in his possession, and tagging along on suspect interviews. He is also not one for searching the houses of the suspect and/or murder victim…because who needed evidence? Not these cops, I guess, since they basically ended up arresting some chick on the most ridiculously flimsy evidence ever.
I think I should also mention that Gabe was a paralegal before moving to Hawaii. He has zero experience in investigating anything. He’s so bad at ferreting out the truth, he let his ex walk off with most of his money even after he knew that the guy was trying to steal from him. If anyone had to put their trust in this guy finding out whodunit before they were falsely imprisoned…well, let’s just say I hope they like the color orange. At no point in this story did I buy that he could do what he was doing. I greatly dislike “normal person become most-AWESOME-detective-EVER” stories for this very reason. It felt contrived and totally unbelievable.
I don’t know how the author approached constructing this story, but I can say that after reading it that the story felt like the author just didn’t care about writing a good mystery. That all he wanted to do was write about two hot guys fucking in Hawaii. Which, you know, could have been a good story. But this wasn’t. And while I love the native Hawaiian aspects of this story, it wasn’t even the beginnings of enough to save this book. Good mysteries are hard to write, mostly because if you don’t get just the right balance of everything in them, then they can kill a story. Maybe if the other stuff here, like the relationships, had made up for that lackluster mystery, I would be more forgiving. But nearly all of the characters felt flat.
I guess if you go into this not expecting much more than the bare-bones of your typical romance fair, you could enjoy it. Maybe. Just be willing to suspend all disbelief, and probably curiosity as well.