Witty and stylish in the classic Dashiell Hammett tradition: in Michael Murphy's latest high-flying Jake & Laura Mystery, their Hawaiian honeymoon is interrupted when their friend Amelia Earhart is accused of murder.
Hawaii, 1935. Mystery novelist Jake Donovan and actress Laura Wilson are in gorgeous sun-soaked Hawaii, but their best laid plans for canoodling on the beach are interrupted by a summons from famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart. It seems a local businessman has been gunned down next to her plane. In just days, the famous pilot intends to fly from Honolulu to Los Angeles, making aviation history over the Pacific. But now, without Jake and Laura's help, Earhart's flight might never take off. Trailing a killer, the newlyweds' sleuthing leads to a jealous pilot, a cigar-chomping female officer of the "Royalist Militia" and a notoriously disagreeable lieutenant colonel named Patton. With a sinister killer lurking in the shadows, it's safe to say the honeymoon is over . . . and the danger has just begun.
How many ways could a sap like me say he was sorry? Let me count the ways.
I tried to remember my favorite apologies over the years. When Laura returned, she bounded up the deck steps and past me without so much as a glance. She went inside and slammed the front door, shaking the walls of the cabana.
Summoning my courage and the regret I felt, I went inside and wrapped my arms around her.
She stiffened at my touch and wiggled away. “You think you’re going to charm your way out of this mess you put me in?”
That was my hope.
Giving me the cold shoulder, she went into the bathroom and slammed the door. I walked outside and ran a hand over my hair in frustration. On the beach, a vendor with a cart full of colorful tropical flowers mixed with a few roses came into view.
Flowers wouldn’t excuse the trouble I’d caused her, but they couldn’t hurt. I made my way down the beach and even found a dozen white roses, Laura’s favorite. I paid the man and hurried back to the cabana. I entered with the flowers hidden behind my back.
Laura paced the narrow space beside the bed, her dark curls flailing around her head. “Jake Donovan, how could you?”
She peppered the rest of her rhetorical questions with colorful four-letter words I didn’t know she knew. The discussion became a blur. I wouldn’t be able to make it up to her, but I wanted Laura to vent her anger.
She finally took a breath. “Well, aren’t you going to say anything?”
“I’m sorry, really sorry.” I didn’t like the sound of the words as they tumbled out.
Her words dripped with sarcasm. “Well, as long as you’re really sorry, I guess that’s that.”
I held out the roses.
Her clenched jaw softened as she took the flowers. “You’re a self-centered scoundrel, and you’ll never change.”
“Sure you will.” She sniffed the roses. “Don’t change too much.”
I felt like a louse.
Laura kissed my cheek. “I’m sure the interview will turn out fine. Conway seems like a lovely gentleman.”
Lovely gentleman? What table had she sat at? “I hope you’re right.”
“Let’s not let the interview ruin our day. After I put these in water, what do you say we head down to the beach for some fresh seafood?”
We ate shrimp cocktails on a bench by the beach, then went for a walk and reached Sato’s Bicycle Shop. Laura ran her hand over the handlebars of a red bicycle. “Are you up for a ride?”
“Sure.” I’d have preferred to return to the cabana, draw the shades, and turn her kiss on the cheek into something more to make up for my earlier indiscretion, but Laura wanted to explore the island, and I owed her.
A bell rang above my head as I entered the shop and closed the door behind me. The narrow room was tidy for a bicycle shop, smaller than our cabana, and smelled of oil and grease. Bicycle parts lay scattered on a wooden table along the far wall. Two bikes hung from the ceiling.
On the front counter, a radio played an Irving Berlin song, “Heat Wave.” Mikayla Sato, a narrow-shouldered woman in a green Hawaii Rainbows football jersey, came from the back room, wiping her hands on a blue rag.
She was mid-forties and had short black hair with streaks of gray. She greeted me with a smile, stood behind the counter, and snapped off the radio.
“We’ll need two bikes for a couple of hours.”
“Of course, Mr. Donovan. Take your pick. A half mile beyond the Kalua Pineapple Plantation, you’ll come to a lovely secluded tropical forest.”
I liked secluded. “Thanks, Mrs. Sato.”
“No, remember? It’s Mikayla.”
The woman had become our favorite beach vendor the day after our arrival when we discovered her bicycle shop. Unlike some of the cabbies and other vendors we encountered, she never exhibited any sign of resentment against Americans.
She called us by our last names but insisted we call her by her first. I definitely preferred her to that beach bum Tony who ogled Laura and offered her a free surfing lesson every time we passed by.
Outside, we walked the bikes toward the path leading away from the beach.
Tony stood outside his shop in a swimsuit, no shirt, waxing a surfboard. He waved at Laura. “A lovely day just got more beautiful.”
No doubt still sore over how I acted with the reporter, she stopped her bike. “Aloha, Tony.”
The sun glistened off his black hair. In his early twenties, he had stomach muscles as flat as his surfboard. “We’re having a special today, free surf lessons for beautiful Hollywood actresses.”
The crumb deserved a sock in the nose.
“You too, Mr. Donovan. What do you say? Catch some waves?”
Laura laughed. “Perhaps tomorrow.” She took off.
I glared at Tony the surf bum and pedaled after her.
Laura rode with ease, displaying the agility and athleticism I first noticed when she and her old man moved to our street when I was in high school. I would’ve preferred renting a car, but Laura loved the exercise and fresh air of a bike ride.
It took almost a half hour to pass the huge pineapple plantation. When we left the rows of pineapples behind, grassy hills turned into lush green like upstate New York, except these hills were populated by Hawaiian ferns and other species I couldn’t identify. We hopped off our bikes and hiked through the tropical forest. The thick green vegetation and occasional calls of exotic birds reminded me how far Laura and I had come from the garbage-filled gutters and rumbling subways in Queens.
Laura appeared to have forgotten my earlier behavior with the reporter. I stole a few kisses, but she pushed me away with a glint in her eyes of better things to come.
On the way back to the beach, her black curls billowed in the breeze as she sang the hit “All I Do Is Dream of You.” Laura peered over the top of her dark glasses and blew me a kiss.
We reached the hill overlooking the beach and paused. The late afternoon sun dipped through orange clouds, nearly touching the horizon, reflecting on the blue water of the Pacific.
Laura pulled to the edge of the path. I stopped beside her.
She gazed toward the beach. “Thanks, darling, this turned into a wonderful day after all. I’ll buy you a drink from that beachfront bar when we get back.”
Prohibition was a mere memory, Laura and I were finally hitched, and we were on a roll. Life was perfect. What could possibly go wrong?