Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Nani Johnson is settling into her life in Hawaii playing the ukulele for events. When she goes to pick up food for a last-minute dinner, a man dies behind her car. Turns out, the man is from the same super-small Kansas town that Nani and her ultra-nutty mom left a few years before. As the body count climbs and Nani and her mom hit the suspect list, can she solve the mystery of the murders before she finds herself playing ukulele behind bars for the rest of her life?
Ukulele Deadly is the 7th book in the Aloha Lagoon Mystery Series.
I received a copy of this novel as an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) from the author in exchange for my review. Content may have changed by the publishing date.
I have not read the six preceding novels in the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries. Ukulele Deadly stands well on its own as a mystery, but there’s a feeling of something lacking for the reader in character development. Nani is a woman with clear history with the police. When a man dies behind her car, the reaction of the constabulary is that of all the juke joints in all the world this dead guy walks into Nani. That the narrative is written in the first person, a stream of consciousness may be very real, but it muddies the happening-on-the-stage waters. Further complicating matters is that first person narrators are seldom reliable and they rarely notice the things that will actually break the case. So even the most eagle-eyed reader can’t be sure, sifting though Nani’s emotional reactions, if what the author causes to stand out, is relevant. Take the shadow Nani notices of someone standing near her when she’s tending to a dying man. Would you notice a shadow if tending to a person struggling for their last breath?
There’s a definite sense of Hawaii in Ukulele Deadly by virtue of Nani’s Hawaiiphile mother who is so obsessed with the islands that she’s changed her name and identity. Haliaka (as she’s renamed herself) is your standard-issue, cozy-mystery, wacky old lady in Ukulele Deadly. Haliaka has convinced herself that she is descended from Hawaiian royalty and decorates with mannequin heads. She is erratic and unpredictable and, as such, makes a perfect suspect in any mystery series. Haliaka’s unique twist is that she’s younger than most of her genre peers and also more of a reality based giggle than a sight gag. She is fully entrenched in Nani’s life and also fully dismissive of anything she plans. Nani’s life is Haliaka’s to manipulate and she revels in the challenge.
Another unique twist is Ukulele Deadly is that Nani is the reticent sleuth while it’s her boyfriend, Nick, that’s raring to do what he can to get involved in the crime solving business. His giddy happiness at the idea of a mystery is somewhat confounding at first. Let’s face it, this is a cozy mystery; so Nani when coming across a body is pretty much ready to just move on with her life and pretend nothing ever happened. As with cozies, she must be dragged into the case and while Nick is cute but not especially persuasive, the coincidence of the victim hailing from the same distant hometown where everyone knows everyone narrows the suspect list considerably to a grand total of two in a way that doesn’t feel like a stretch.
The thing I liked best about Ukulele Deadly is the strength of the main character. Nani may seem to have given up on a lot of things if you listen to what she’s saying, but if you look at what she’s doing she’s a person that allows life to happen to her when it suits her, but is an active participant in her own existence. She is not the weepy, flaky, falling-apart-at-the-drop of a fake eyelash main character we’re accustomed to seeing in the genre. She’s also not the woman so vehemently trying to be a girl power icon that her efforts come off as more superhero making ploy rather than plot point. Despite the copious emotional reactions in the narrative flow and the minutia of chronicling the day, the story develops and the plot points are engaging, so that a reader who may find that the novel started slowly will be surprised at how quickly it flowed to the end. The style choice is well edited and if there were errors, this reader missed them.
If you’re looking for an interesting, quick, read and enjoy the stream of consciousness style, pick Ukulele Deadly up today.
Read an excerpt and buy Ukulele Deadly by Leslie Langtry on