Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Lei Crime Series

Those of you who know me well, know that I love to read. Currently, my favorite medium is ebooks on my iPad. I recently learned of a website that helps support my habit inexpensively — bookbub.com. You can go to that website, provide your email address and the types of books you enjoy reading and they will send you a daily email with a list of books for iPad and Kindle which are free, $.99, $1.99 or $2.99. One such offering that caught my eye was entitled Blood Orchid by Toby Neal. It takes place on the Big Island of Hawai‘i featuring a young female detective, Leilani Texeira (Lei for short). Lei is smart but flawed, self-confident but vulnerable. But what really stands out for me is the author's ability to put us into real Hawai‘i. The sights, the sounds, the places, the smells, the way of talking, the interplay of different ethnic groups — for someone who loves the islands as I do and who lived on Maui in the mid-1980s, it was like being there again. I became so immersed in it, I was almost depressed when I read the last word on page 477. Unlike my usual habit (reading a fiction book followed my non-fiction), I had to read the second novel, Torch Ginger, set on the island of Kaua‘i — same thing, couldn't put it down. By the time I finished reading the 12th book in the series, Bitter Feast, I felt like I had been fed a wonderful feast of mystery set in my beloved islands. Anyone who shares my love of Hawai‘i and all things Hawaiian, take a look, maybe you'll get hooked too. And if you do, I suggest starting with the first book, Blood Orchid, and reading them in sequence because of recurring characters and references to events in previous books.

A bit about the author from her online bio — she grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawai‘i. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last sixteen years. Toby is a clinical social worker, a career that informs the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawai‘i through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking.

Her husband, Mike Neal, is an accomplished photographer and artist. You can check out his wonderful photography on his website (nealststudios.net) or on the covers of the Lei Crime Series which follow. They live in upcountry Maui.

BTW, the following book descriptions are from Toby's website.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo.

On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers — one of whom she’d recently busted. The girl’s harsh life and tragic death touches a chord with Lei, and she becomes obsessed with the case. The killer is drawn to her intensity and stalks her, feeding on her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei's quest for answers. She finds herself falling in love for the first time — but the stalker is closer than she can imagine, and threads of the past are tangled in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer — but he already knows where she lives.

The island of Kaua‘i is remote jungle, golden beaches and ancient culture — but transients are disappearing in paradise, and only Detective Lei Texeira notices.

Fleeing a failed engagement, Detective Lei Texeira transfers to the island of Kaua‘i, where she uncovers a pattern of disappearances that may be related to a bizarre cult — or is it just one madman at work? In Lei's world, everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

In Blood Orchids Lei battled her personal demons and won — but now they've come roaring back with reinforcements, including charming real estate magnate Alika Wolcott and former fiancé Michael Stevens. In the midst of the biggest case sleepy Kaua‘i has ever seen, Lei must also discover who she loves.

The island of Maui is turquoise ocean, stunning vistas, and whalesong — but organized crime has a hidden hold, and Detective Lei Texeira tracks evil that hides behind a beautiful face.

Lei and Stevens find a haven on Maui — until their new life as a couple is interrupted by murder. When a nameless teenage girl dies in an apparent vehicular suicide, Lei can’t rest until she finds out what really happened. She blazes through all the wealth and poverty of island society in her quest for justice, rousing a deadly foe — even as she faces the personal demons of commitment and revenge that threaten the only real love she’s ever known.

The island of O‘ahu is warm breezes, skyscrapers and green mountains — but a daring young thief is out to make a statement, and Special Agent Lei Texeira’s new career is already on the line.

Lei Texeira has made a difficult transition from detective on Maui to the FBI on O‘ahu — and her first big case as an agent draws national media attention. With her typical jump-first, look-later style, she pursues her quarry from O‘ahu to the outer islands, rousing old conflicts and new heartbreak.

The island of O‘ahu is skyscrapers and rainforests, beaches and boutiques — but Special Agent Lei Texeira is drawn into a shadow world connected by death and the Internet. Mysterious suicides draw Lei and her team, including tech specialist Sophie Ang, to hunt a criminal who plays with the thin gray line between right and wrong. Lei stirs up a hornet’s nest on the investigation as her past reaches out in a twisted vine of old loves, new technologies and dark vendettas.

Maui is lush mountains, cloud forest and exquisite birdsong — but for Detective Lei Texeira, arrows break that peace.

Someone is stalking poachers that are capturing Maui’s rarest birds, and Lei pursues the case with her usual leap-first, look-later style — but will she be able to catch a killer, save the birds, and still make it to her own wedding? Shattered Palms is a roller coaster ride from the top of Haleakala to the beach and back again, with extinction at stake.

Maui is sacred places, ancient artifacts, and the dark lava of deepest passions.

Nothing ever goes easy for detectives Lei Texeira and Michael Stevens. An investigation into heiau desecrations must take a back seat to the emergence of an enemy who targets those closest to them, leaving shrouds as a calling card. Lei and Stevens face challenges of the body, mind and heart in this seventh in the bestselling Lei Crime Series.

Hawai‘i is cane fires, lush jungles, and feuds that won’t die until everyone’s dead. Detective Lei Texeira stalks the shroud killer on her own terms as Michael Stevens finds himself engulfed in the flames of a case with tangled consequences. In this eighth of the bestselling Lei Crime Series, Lei and Stevens find out just how far hate and love will go.

Surfing in Hawai‘i can be power, fame, talent and… murder.

Poised to win the prestigious Triple Crown of Surfing, Maui surf star Makoa Simmons washes up tragically dead. Detective Lei Texeira plunges into a high-profile case whose dark and tangled motives reach deep into the elite world of professional surfing on the North Shore of O‘ahu. Lei must follow her instincts into new territory even as husband Michael Stevens struggles with heartbreak of another kind.

Maui's ocean is beautiful, wild… and deadly.

It's been five years since the events of Rip Tides, and Sergeant Lei Texeira gets into hot water much deeper than she's used to at a crime scene ninety feet down off of the tiny atoll of Molokini, where the death of beautiful marine biologist Danielle "Lani" Phillips is anything but an accident. More suspects than a school of sharks circle a case that takes Lei into territory that hits dangerously close to home, even as husband Michael Stevens heads into his own uncharted depths.

In Hawai‘i, a red rain means the death, change, or birth of a chief.

The last thing detective Lei Texeira wants to do while her husband is gone is deal with a child homicide cold case — but she gets one anyway, and it takes her beyond her personal limits. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Michael Stevens finds himself in a dark place filled with every kind of threat from crocodiles to kidnappers, and just getting home alive would be a miracle.

The farm-to-table food movement in Hawai‘i can be luscious, exotic… murder.

Lieutenant Michael Stevens investigates a murder in a fine dining restaurant on Maui that’s a Feast of possible motives, with jealousy, passion and revenge topping the menu. A host of familiar characters, from Jared Stevens to Dr. Wilson, chime in from their perspectives, each contributing essential information to one of the most complex cases Stevens has ever encountered — but that’s nothing compared to imminent parenthood with his wife Lei, who’d rather be packing a gun than a diaper bag.

Afterword: at the end of each of her novels, Toby adds personal comments about how the novel came together, certain twists and turns and perhaps, why the story turned out the way it did. In Bitter Feast, she also mentioned a bit of Maui news — that growing sugar cane and processing that cane will be ending by the end of this year.

I was shocked, "say it ain't so". But a quick Google search revealed that it is happening. From mauiinformationguide.com...

"Alexander & Baldwin announced they’ll be shutting down sugarcane operations by late 2016.

They announced that they will be transitioning Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) to a diversified farm model. They will be looking at the potential of energy crops, cattle land, and an agriculture park for food crops for their 36,000 acre plantation here in Maui, Hawai‘i.

Their last sugarcane harvest is expected to be completed by late 2016, and until then around half of their 675 employees will remain in their jobs. Their decision was made after seeing a “roughly $30 million Agribusiness operating loss” from 2015, which forecasts show it continuing with large losses that are unsustainable.

Their decision to shut down Maui sugarcane operations after 145 years will impact everyone living on and visiting Maui, Hawai‘i. The outcome of this change could go in many different ways (and probably will)."

In memory of the cane fields, here is a photo I took on a previous visit.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com