“Iced in Paradise” is an interesting mystery set on the even more interesting Hawaiian island of Kaua‘I, a very little island with population close to 70,000 people, if you didn’t count the tourists. Leilani Santiago has returned to Kaua‘I to work in the family business “Santiago Shave Ice.” In a first person narrative, she shares her thoughts about Seattle and the things and people she left behind. She also talks about her love of home, her devotion to family, and the healing power of the sea.
The narrative is driven by conversations in the unique vernacular of the islands, a mash-up of Pidgin, Hawaiian, and Japanese. Characters use “code switching,” changing from one dialect or language to another, and there is a convenient “translation” index in the back of the book.
Readers get to know Leilani well by what she says to people and what people say to her. She also talks to herself, analyzes actions, and second guesses events. The narrative is casual and friendly, as if she is talking to a friend, and progresses at a slow but deliberate pace as things happen. She juggles her family, the police, real estate developers, a potential new boyfriend on Kaua‘I, and her old boyfriend from Seattle.
The narrative is also filled with interesting and vivid descriptions of the people and places.
“She comes out with her hair down and dripping with water, looking like an angry troll who just survived a drowning. Her blond, wavy hair is shaped like a tangle of dried seaweed.”
“As the uniformed officers descend on the beach, they remind me of black ants seeking their next piece of sustenance. My father, a juicy morsel.”
“Iced in Paradise” is quick to read and is filled with culture, beauty, and mystery. I received a review copy of “Iced in Paradise” from Naomi Hirahara and Prospect Park Books. It gives readers a tiny taste of culture and beauty along with a mystery.