Mai Tai One On (Tiki Goddess Mysteries #1) by Jill Marie Landis (Bell Bridge Books, 2011, 228pp.)
After weathering a nasty divorce, all Em Johnson wants is a life of peace and quiet. She gets plenty of that working at the Tiki Goddess, a small bar run by her Uncle Louie on Kauai, the so-called “Garden Isle” of the Hawaiian Islands. Here, tourists can relax, toss back a few drinks, and be entertained by the exceedingly awful performances given by the bar’s second-rate dance troupe, the Hula Maidens. Because the bar is short-staffed, Em is forced to hire a young woman, Sophie Chin, on the spot as bartender during one of their tourist rush hours. A few weeks later, Harold Otanami, local landscaper and enthusiast of the establishment’s Karaoke Night, is found roasting in the bar’s imu, or barbecue pit. Roland Sharpe, the local detective (and part-time fire dancer), insists that Sophie, whom Em hired without references, must be responsible for the crime—especially since she has a police record that she neglected to disclose to Em upon employment. But the ever-loyal Em argues that her coworker must be innocent. As more murders occur, Detective Sharpe becomes even more convinced of Sophie’s guilt, and Em, with the help of the bar staff (and the Hula Maidens), fights to clear Sophie’s name. If the summary description here doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will. Mai Tai One On is a funny, charming beginning to what promises to be a truly unique cozy mystery series. The exotic locale adds a kind of quirky charm, and the cultural references peppered throughout the story only add dimension to the already vivid setting. Need I say more?
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