Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Off the Grid

By Robert McCaw
Oceanview     2018
298 pages     Mystery 

Off the Grid is the first mystery I have read that is centered on the big island of Hawai’i, and on its volcano, Mauna Loa. Actually, it is probably only the second book that I have read based in Hawai’i. Here is the summary of the book: 

“A scrap of cloth fluttering in the wind leads Hilo police Chief Detective Koa Kāne to the tortured remains of an unfortunate soul, left to burn in the path of an advancing lava flow. For Koa, it’s the second gruesome homicide of the day, and he soon discovers the murders are linked. These grisly crimes on Hawaiʻi’s Big Island could rewrite history―or cost Chief Detective Koa Kāne his career. 
The dead, a reclusive couple living off the grid, turn out to be mysterious fugitives. The CIA, the Chinese government, and the Defense Intelligence Agency attempt to thwart Koa’s investigation and obscure the victims’ true identities. Undeterred by mounting political pressure, Koa pursues the truth only to find himself drawn into a web of international intrigue. 
While Koa investigates, the Big Island scrambles to prepare for the biggest and most explosive political rally in its history. Despite police resources stretched to the breaking point, Koa uncovers a government conspiracy so shocking its exposure topples senior officials far beyond Hawaii’s shores.”  

I really enjoyed the setting and the intricacy of the novel, including the Hawaiian history, and the information about volcanoes. One interesting factoid concerned a subdivision that had been built too close to Mauna Loa, and an eruption had destroyed most of the homes. In an interview, the author suggested that much of his plot derived from places he had visited and recent happenings on the big island.  

Koa, the Chief Detective in charge of the murder investigations that begin the book, is a very interesting character. He is extremely intense but deeply flawed with a hidden murder that keeps him very unsettled and distrustful. He suffers from PTSD, and he is constantly being reminded of his military service in Somalia and its horrors. He is deeply in love with a Ranger at Volcanoes National Park, but also worried that if she knew that he had killed a man, she might not love him.  

One reason I like mysteries is because they often take place in interesting settings. This is certainly one of the major strengths of the book. I was fascinated by the volcano and the people who lived in its environs. I’ve only been a tourist in the Hawaiian Islands, so all this was new information to me. I also really liked the complexity of the case. The title comes from the way some of the characters live—secluded and totally “off the grid.” 

One hang-up I encountered reading Off the Grid is the amount of back-story that the reader had to wade through to get to the plot. It is clunky to get through. There should be better ways to introduce Koa and his co-workers, etc., without having to get through all their life histories. I had a hard time with so many details. This is unfortunate, because the book begins with a bang—two dead bodies in one day!  

Dedicated mystery readers will particularly like Off the Grid. Readers in Hawai’i will like reading about their home turf. 

No comments: