By: Mark Daniel Seiler
Publisher: Owl House Books
Publication Date: May 2020
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
A mysterious murder leads the daughter of a Buddhist into more than she bargains for in Mark Seiler’s mystery, Shave Ice Paradise.
Something fishy surrounds the mysterious death of Gina Mori’s Auntie Nalani. The feisty daughter of a Buddhist minister contacts her police friend, Carla Moreno, for details on the crime scene for starters before Gina investigates. Curly (aka Julius), a stream biologist, is busy gathering samples for the Department of Land and Natural Resources near the crime scene at the time she shows up. The two hit it off, and Gina takes Curly with him to search for more clues after he finds Auntie Nalani’s missing handbag.
Even though Curly becomes immediately enamored with Gina, he has a difficult time reading Gina’s feelings because of her hardcore persona. It doesn’t help that she is the complete antithesis of what he would expect from a foxy-looking female. While Gina, undoubtedly, is a force not to be reckoned with, the two become an item until one of them divulges a bit of their skewed past.
A chain of events, spurred by a bus accident and an agrochemical company, leads Gina to further sleuthing, and this time without Curly’s help. The more information she gathers, the more she fears that she may be the next on her aunt’s murderer’s hit list. Award-winning author Mark Seiler weaves in “all things Hawaiian” in Shave Ice Paradise.
Although Seiler’s new mystery opens with the plot’s crime scene, readers should expect immersion into the fauna, flora, culture, traditions, and language of Wai Nau, the northwestern portion of the Island of Hawaii, from the get-go.
There is more to Gina Mori than the bumbling, awkward persona she displays around the Buddhist temple where her father serves as minister. Once she gets wind of her aunt’s death, Gina morphs into stealth mode. Her gutsy, no-nonsense approach to how she handles herself around the townsfolk makes her a complicated character to read for several chapters. One thing is for sure though: she’ll do whatever it takes to get answers.
Curly enters her life very early in the plot. A bit reserved to her gutsiness, Curly has no idea what’s in store when he falls head over heels for Gina and joins her on some of her sleuthing adventures. While a light romance builds, there are other issues brewing, such as their pasts...
This first glimpse into the protagonist’s flaws is just the tip of the iceberg as Seiler slowly but deftly develops the inner workings of his cast—a vital and attractive element to his literary writing style. It is from this character-building element that Seiler’s storytelling takes off and provides the perfect setup for him to cleverly weave in a Hawaiian word here or there, the area’s landscape, and even environmental issues.
Scenes mainly shift between Gina’s investigations and her relationship with Curly, but as the story develops, scenes begin to glance at other characters with their strengths and shortcomings. Chapters are short and engaging and close on light cliffhangers until the plot thickens. Seiler pulls from the several tangled situations to create unpredictable twists and turns, a ticking-bomb climax, and a slam-bang ending.