The Honorary Jersey Girl

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Written by Albert Tucher — Al Tucher returns to the Big Island of Hawaii in this fast-paced adventure that shows how, underneath the tropical paradise veneer of mai-tais and surfing, are the same criminal proclivities you find everywhere.

Criminal defense attorney Agnes Rodrigues has successfully defended her client Hank Alves against a charge of murder, but apparently not everyone accepts the verdict. Now someone is trying to kill him. And because the murder victim was a cop’s wife, it may be the loyal brothers in blue.

Rodrigues is convinced of Alves’s innocence – he’s too lame to commit an actual murder. He needs protection, and she knows where to find it. She flies 10 hours to New Jersey to try to persuade Diana Andrews, a former high-end prostitute who now runs a top-notch personal security business, to take the case. But Andrews turns the job down. She’s had dangerous encounters in Hawaii in the past and won’t go near the place. Instead she offers to send two of her operatives, an ex-Navy SEAL named Drake and a tall, intimidating woman called Tulla Konner.

The trio arrive at the remote ranch where Rodrigues has stashed Alves and start work. Before long, there’s another attempt to kill him, a long-distance rifle shot that barely misses. Someone has skills. The police arrive to investigate, but get nowhere. It turns out the best way to protect Alves will be to identify the actual murderer and Rodrigues suspects the dead woman’s husband, Don Savage.

The Honorary Jersey Girl would be an entertaining book to take on a Hawaiian vacation, in real life or the armchair variety. The number of towns and locales where this investigation takes Rodrigues and crew is like a travelogue. While the islands of Hawaii may look like specks on the map, that’s deceiving. The Big Island has a mountainous terrain and the occasional road hazards – smoldering lava, deep gorges, torrential rain that turns unpaved roads to mud fields – that don’t make for speedy travel, even if the island is only slightly larger than Kent. Tucher’s characters, confronted with the significant logistical difficulties the landscape presents, have little opportunity to appreciate the astonishing beauty of their tropical surroundings and his easygoing writing style moves them along smoothly.

Information that Don Savage has been investigated by internal affairs for shaking down prostitutes starts Rodrigues and crew on the trail of a different motive and reveals a much larger crime in the background. When the body of a prostitute washes up near the town of Kalapana, Diana Andrews can help. By working the contacts from her former occupation, she finds out more, even though she’s 5,000 miles away. The national circuit of top-ranked escorts is a relative small sorority, with a regular stop in New Jersey’s Atlantic City.

This is a short book at 129 pages. Despite its brevity – another feature that makes for great vacation reading – it is filled with colourful characters who reflect the diversity of Hawaiians’ ethnic and cultural backgrounds. If you’ve read Tucher’s previous books like The Place of Refuge then you’ll note the return of Detective Errol Coutinho. Coutinho and Rodrigues are trying to keep their admiration for each other well under wraps. Another time, maybe.

And how does Rodrigues become an honorary Jersey Girl? Like anything else these days: connections.

For more trouble in paradise try Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman, set in Bora Bora, or Paula Lennon’s Murder in Montego Bay.

Shotgun Honey Books

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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