Tuesday, June 6, 2023


 By Robert McCaw

Oceanview     2023

336 pages     Mystery

Retribution is the third Chief Detective Koa Kane novel I have read by Robert McCaw. All the novels take place in Hilo on the big Island of Hawaii, and all are police procedurals. What makes Retribution such a unique experience is the setting and the unique names of the characters. Most all of the main characters are native Hawaiians. This lends both charm and confusion, because few of the names are easy to remember.

Koa Kane is the Chief Detective of the Hilo police department. Although he is well-respected in the department and by the city prosecutors, he has a secret criminal past and a younger brother Ikaika, who has a troublesome past that is well known. Surgery on tumors in Ikaika’s brain has turned his mental health around, and he has been doing very well, much to his brother’s relief. Imagine Koa’s surprise when a young man is found dead in an alley with a knife recovered beside the body covered in Ikaika’s fingerprints. And that’s only the beginning.

It begins to appear that Koa is the real target of a series of crimes with several bodies piling up—all connected in some way to Koa. Most insidiously, Koa’s girlfriend, Natani, is the intended victim of a car bombing, which kills her co-worker and best friend, who had the misfortune to be driving Natani’s car. Additionally, Koa is having to contend with a new Assistant Chief Detective, Moreau, who thinks he knows it all when in actuality, he knows nothing. There’s something off about Moreau, and Koa begins to think that Moreau’s connection to Hilo’s mayor may have some significance. The reader begins to distrust Moreau as well.

Koa continues to impress the reader with his integrity, his foresight, and his intuition. It is his intuition that helps him realize that the fingerprints on the murder weapon are false, even though fingerprints are supposed to be foolproof evidence. He quickly sees the connection to all the murders and bombings, and also is able to move quickly when he is just given a couple of clues. Thus, the plot of Retribution seems to move quickly, and I turned pages quickly—or flipped the screen quickly, since I was reading it on a Kindle.

Again, Hawaii is a major character in the novel, and McCaw does a great job of helping us visualize this remarkable setting. We learn a bit about scientists searching for turtles and the technology they use in their search. We learn about the volcanic activity and how some Hawaiian roads are constantly having to be cleared of rubble. We also learn that native Hawaiian narcotic drinks are much better than beer, even though the beer may be local.

I think that I enjoyed Retribution the most of all the McCaw novels I have read, and I believe this is because the plot moves quickly and Koa Kane moves just as quickly to get to the heart of the situation. There is less back story to wade through, and that contributes to the pace of the book. Several reviewers complained about the incorporation of Hawaiian slang. One said, “Although I suspect this was done not only to add realism but to show respect for Indigenous Hawaiians, it seems excessive here.” Actually, I got a kick out of the slang and tried to figure out how to pronounce it. Prior to reading Retribution, all I could pronounce was Aloha.

The other books that I have read are Off the Grid and Fire and Vengeance.  His books do not need to be read in order. Robert McCaw’s website. Retribution is released today. So glad the publicist gave me the opportunity to read it.


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