I started Toby Neal’s addictive mystery/romance series enticed by the reviews, gorgeous covers, and the appeal of reading a born and bred Hawaiian writer. So much that happens in “Paradise” is swept into the shadows to keep tourists happy, and I was very intrigued by my initial introduction to heroine Lei Texeira, who had never been sheltered from the islands’ poverty, drug crimes, racism, sexism, violence, and broken families–all the real life issues that we who live and work in Hawaii confront daily.
From the initial chapters of Blood Orchids you can’t help but admire Lei’s brave, true spirit, and feel for the deep scars and pain of her past. She is a remarkable, compelling character, and watching her fight for justice in the male-dominated world of law enforcement makes for the type of page-turning suspense where you just can’t stop reading! I confess I embarked on a series binge that felt like a breathless adventure holiday. Neal manages to portray the unique beauty, history, and vitality of the Big Island (and Hawaii’s other islands in following books) even as Lei is trying to find a serial killer while being stalked herself. This combination of atmosphere, plot, and truly original characters makes reading Blood Orchids a rare and enjoyable experience–especially when love interest Michael Stevens enters the picture.
While most of the series books focus on the narrative voices of Lei and Stevens, Blood Orchids also segues into glimpses of the psychopath stalking Lei. Narrator Sara Malia Hatfield is amazing as she creates unforgettable voices for both male and female characters and keeps the exposition interesting. Her renderings of our local “pidgin” dialect as well as second- and third-generation Japanese and Chinese accents are flawless.
I recommend Blood Orchids with five stars across the board–but be warned, once you get started you’ll likely have a hard time stopping. Also, I found that I had to keep reading in order–I had purchased one book ahead in the series, skipping the novel in-between, and after five minutes realized I just couldn’t resist the pull of what I might have missed in the former book–and was forced to stop, go online and get the missing book before I was happily immersed in the series’ flow once again. So far–and I just finished the sixth in the series–these well-crafted thrillers have made me uneasy, tearful, frustrated, jealous, moved, inspired, and eager for more. Don’t wait–drop a credit on Blood Orchids now! It’s so much better than TV.
(Read #Audible reviews online at http://www.audible.com/listener/AZ9XJKAJ9MWF1?asin=B00OZSZXA0)