Written by Bruce W Perry — On the Hawaiian island of Kauai, a beautiful American woman hires a paddle board from a beach outlet and pushes herself off into the calm and crystal clear ocean. Only her battered board returns.
Amanda Wilcox is the daughter of a prominent wealthy lawyer, but she’s no empty headed heiress. She’s an eco-campaigner, and is on the island investigating the affairs of a multinational agricultural company, which is experimenting with GM crops. After a few days in the headlines, Amanda’s disappearance seems to be written off as a shark attack but her father, Sam Wilcox, doesn’t trust the local police. He hires tough former NYPD policeman Karl Standt to find his daughter – dead or alive.
Standt gets the gig courtesy of Don Latham, a veteran New York Post reporter who knows Wilcox. Standt is briefed by Latham and, after an inconclusive interview with Amanda’s boyfriend, flies down to the luxury resort of Princeville, and feels immediately ill at ease amongst the millionaires and trophy wives. He enlists the less-than-legal assistance of a brilliant computer hacker back in New York. Church, a gangling and shambling wreck of a man, takes time out from consuming industrial quantities of narcotics to mine the bank records of significant Kauai figures. He tells Standt that the local police chief, Bruno Reilly, is in the pay of the multinational company, and this launches the investigator on a trail which puts him at odds with some very powerful people.
Helped by an observant hotel employee and a local felony investigator called Chris Ke’alohilani, Standt senses that neither his early assumptions about Amanda’s disappearance, nor the casual and ill-informed conclusions of the local police, are anywhere near the truth. Ke’alohilani seems too laid-back, casual – and stoned – to be of much use, but he points Standt in the direction of Cambodia. He doesn’t mean the country in Southeast Asia, but the dense jungle at the heart of Kauai – a location where drug barons are rumoured to be growing their crops.
Gone on Kauai is something of a curate’s egg. Standt is a credible character and I enjoyed the fact that despite his tenacity he’s not an invincible martial arts specialist, an irresistable womaniser, nor a deadly gunman. The descriptions of Kauai itself are convincing and are not just window dressing, as the topography proves relevant to the plot. The story is straightforward enough, despite Perry introducing a fairly major red herring early on in the piece. The dialogue serves its purpose, but don’t expect sharp humour or witty one-liners. I am not certain what was brought to the party by the introduction of the real life character of one of the world’s most beautiful actresses, but for me it added a sense of unreality to the final scenes, particularly when she is sitting in the back of a helicopter while her minder engages in a gun battle with the bad men in the jungle below.
Oddly enough, I found the final chapter the best written section of the book. It’s thoughtful, contemplative, and casts a warm and restorative glow over the slightly uneven landscape of the previous pages. Perry is based in Vermont, and is best known for his books on software and extreme fitness. Karl Standt – and his oddball pal, Church – first featured in Barbarous Coasts and a third book in the series is on the way this year.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars