I was sent Mike Bond's Saving Paradise in exchange for a review, and I agreed because the premise did interests me, and I am attempting to read more crime novels. Plus, with this being a free book, this situation was already a win in my opinion. Also, I will be reviewing Bond's newest novel, The Last Savannah, due out in mid-January, early in the new year.
The Situation: Pono Hawkins is a veteran living in Hawaii, making his living as a well-known surfer, writing articles for surf magazines. He also teaches surfing to under-privileged youth, and makes extra cash on the side with his dog Mojo, a dachshund with his own surf board and fan base. After one of his many mornings spent surfing off the shore of Waikiki, Pono finds the body of a beautiful journalist washed up on shore. As an ex-con, Pono knows enough to just call it in and let the authorities handle it. And if she wasn't so pretty, he may have been able to leave it at that. But after asking a few questions, and learning that the coroner decided to essentially switch his conclusion from murder to accidental drowning, Pono finds himself unable to just let this go.
The Problem: As soon as Pono begins to investigate Sylvia's death on his own, it becomes clear that he has instantly made some very powerful enemies that want to give him the same fate. Sylvia's death was no accident, but the amount of people involved in the scheme is almost overwhelming, especially for one man attempting to clear this up on his own. Powerful people with money from powerful corporations are tracking Pono's every move and trying to keep him away from the truth, all in the hopes of keeping their other shady deals from coming to light in an effort to just make more money. If Pono isn't careful, and doesn't manage to stay one step ahead of them, it could very well be the end for him. And it doesn't help that not everyone tells him the truth all of the time, even those that are supposed to be helping him out.
Genre, Themes, History: This is a crime novel, or thriller. I have even seen this categorized as an existential thriller, though I am not entirely sure what that is supposed to mean exactly. While the primary focus of the story is one man trying to find out who killed a journalist, while not ending up dead himself, there is a sub-plot of several major corporations essentially attempting to use land in Hawaii for a "green" wind-farm project that actually isn't so green, except in that it would make them all very rich while not actually helping the environment at all. There is much discussion about these corrupt corporations, and also the corrupt politicians, including Hawaii's governor, that back them and help push their agendas onto the Hawaiian population. Hawaii is shown to not be quite the island paradise that most mainlanders would imagine it to be, as Pono is not shy about pointing out all of its flaws and corruption, which he asserts all started before it was even a U.S. state. It is certainly a different view of Hawaii than what we normally do not get.
My Verdict: This book is not for everyone. If you want a fast-paced thriller that often-times doesn't make a whole lot of sense but doesn't actually require much thinking to enjoy, then this may be a good book for you. Also, there will need to be some suspension of disbelief, but almost every book has a little bit of that I guess. My main issue is that almost none of the characters are likable, least of all Pono. Which is a shame really since he is the narrator and the one whose head the reader is in all of the time. Everyone is guilty of something, so it made it hard for me to not want them all to go down. Things definitely get better as the book moves along though, and it isn't crazy long or anything (clocking in at 277 pages). At the beginning I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but by the end I really did want to know what happened and was hoping everything would work out.
Favorite Moment: When one of Pono's many girlfriends finds out that she is just that and decides she is done with him.
Favorite Character: My favorite person is definitely Mitchell, another veteran who served with Pono and is able to use his computer skills to tap emails and retrieve useful information. He is one of few people that Pono seems to genuinely care for, and Mitchell watches out for Pono and helps him in return.
Recommended Reading: I think I will actually recommend Robert Galbraith's (aka J.K. Rowling) Cuckoo's Calling. It is also a crime novel, but takes a very different approach. The story takes place in London where a supermodel's death has been ruled a suicide, but her brother suspects it was murder. Instead of being a fast-paced thriller like Saving Paradise, Cuckoo's Calling is much slower and much more methodical in how the mystery is laid out.