Book Review: Death and Consequences on Hilo


In journalism one of the things you can do to look like an amateur is, as we say, “bury the lede,” which is, simply, failing to put the most important thing up front, top of the story, first, maybe second, paragraph. So, not wanting to fail here, here’s the main point:

Eric Redman’s second crime novel set in Hawai’i, “Death in Hilo,” is better than his first, lots better, and “Bones of Hilo” which came out in 2021 was itself a strikingly good first novel.

“Death” reacquaints us with homicide detective Kawika Wong, now moved from the Big Island – Hawai’i– to Honolulu on O’ahu. It’s been 12 years. He’s risen to head the homicide detail. And at the moment he’s buried in the problem of a prolific serial killer dropping nude bodies drained of blood in a park near Diamond Head. Five so far.

Bad enough. But then a local journalist discovers that Kawika and homicide detective Terry Tanaka, Kawika’s close friend and mentor when he was starting out on the Big Island, may have let a killer go to prison for one person he did not kill. Ahead of his impending release, the confessed killer convinces the young Honolulu reporter that someone else murdered one of the victims for which he was jailed, and Kawika and Tanaka know who it was. Based on the killer’s claim, the reporter pursues the story as a cover up for which the good guys could well go down. A police administrator starts an investigation into the case and each day’s newspaper brings Kawika more agony and fear for his career.

Yet there’s still another layer. A headless body is dropped in the same park the serial killer uses but it’s not his (or her) M.O. It might be sex gone wrong or it might be political. The media spokesperson for the Thirty Meter Telescope project, a plan to build the world’s largest on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island, has turned up missing. The project is hugely controversial, opposed by native Hawai’ian groups who see it as a violation of sacred lands. Is there something worse here than just protesters blocking the road to the mountain top?

(Despite that implied controversy, Redman tells us in a preface that none of his references to the Thirty Meter Telescope are based on real people or events.)

Overall, though, Redman has produced a novel with a complex layered plot where the elements and characters twist around each other like the double helix of human DNA. It’s that complexity smoothly handled that makes “Death” (Crooked Lane Books, $30.99) more than just a sequel to “Bones.” There are deep tantalizing questions surrounding the characters, looked at through the interactions and identity questions that flow through the blood of Hawai’i’s diverse society.

Redman himself is a lawyer, Seattle native, climate activist, and an author of an admired book on Congress (“The Dance of Legislation”) reflecting his days as a staffer for Sen. Warren Magnuson. He’s not Hawai’ian but has his feet on the ground in the islands having spent some of nearly every year for 40-odd years on the Big Island. Here’s my Post Alley review of his first Kawika Wong novel, “Bones of Hilo.”


Dick Lilly
Dick Lilly
Dick Lilly is a former Seattle Times reporter who covered local government from the neighborhoods to City Hall and Seattle Public Schools. He later served as a public information officer and planner for Seattle Public Utilities, with a stint in the mayor’s office as press secretary for Mayor Paul Schell. He has written on politics for and the Seattle Times as well as Post Alley.


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