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Publisher's Summary

Mahu -- a generally negative Hawaiian term for homosexuals -- introduces a unique character to detective fiction. Kimo Kanapa'aka is a handsome, mixed-race surfer living in Honolulu, a police detective confronting his homosexuality in an atmosphere of macho bravado within the police force. A man of intelligence, strength, honesty, resourcefulness, and intense dedication to the people of Hawaii, Kimo is a hard-boiled hero you will never forget. Fast-paced, intricately plotted, thoroughly enjoyable, this is a sexy, surprisingly moving mystery about discovering oneself as much as catching a killer.

©2010 MLR Press (P)2017 MLR Press

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  • Jim Lee
  • OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, US
  • 09-09-17

Wonderful Example of the Coming Out Experinence

Two things I really really liked about this book. First it wasn't filled with gratuitous sex. The other was the fact that it gave a very authentic depiction of the struggles of man being coming out to his world. It showed the very real challenges to develop a new working relationship with his family that he has always loved but now feels estranged from. Joel Leslie did an awesome job as usual. He is probably the best man to man numerators out there.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J.R.
  • Virginia
  • 08-14-17

Another Brilliant Performance!

Joel Leslie could make the phone book exotic and interesting. Excellent, fantastic audio experience.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good mystery,

The narration: I am a big fan of Joel Leslie. I have listened to thirty-three books narrated by him and though I’m sure that is no record or anything, I have enjoyed all of those books. He has provided dozens of accents for the characters in previous books and is great at modulating voices within the same accent so that each character has his or her own sound. In Mahu, over half of the characters in the book speak with an Asian accent, since it takes place in Hawaii. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy some of the narrator’s accents in this book. The Asian accents sound too strong and just a little too broken for me. It did make the experience a little less enjoyable, but that doesn’t reflect on Joel’s ability to pull me into a story with his voice acting. He emotes so well. And though I have some critique for the narration in Mahu, I know that will not effect my purchasing audiobooks narrated by Joel Leslie in the future. I am still a big fan.

The story: I looked up the word Mahu before I started listening to the book and discovered it is a Hawaiian term for people who embody both the male and female spirit. It’s also known as a third gender. The Hawaiian culture was ahead of time when it came to gender identity. From reading this book, it seems like it is used as an insulting name for gay and lesbian women at the time the story was written. The original publication of this story was in 2005, I believe, and I think the story takes place around that time as well. Kimo running to find a pay phone makes me believe that this story takes place before everyone carried cell phones, but after the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s.

The main character of this story is Kimo Kanapa’aka. At the beginning of the story he is very closeted and a bit in denial of his sexuality. He is an undercover detective who has only had relationships with women. He and his team go out for a drink after a bust goes bad, but what happens after that changes Kimo’s whole life. Kimo stumbles across a body outside a gay bar and he starts to compromise himself in order to protect his secret. Only he can’t continue to keep silent about that either. Not completely. And now, Kimo is wanting more from his life than a lie.

There is a small part of this story that features Kimo discovering his own wants and needs. There is a longing for someone to share his life with. The story is also about Kimo trying to find out where he stands within the police department and his family. The biggest part of the story is the mystery of who killed the mystery man Kimo found and why. There are a lot of twists and turns as Kimo tries to solve this case. The culprit wasn’t entirely unexpected for me, however the reason that it happened was not what I expected.

There is a hot button topic in this book, I think. The use of the “F” word. Over the course of the book the word faggot or fag is used many times. It is thrown around when they find the murdered body outside a gay club. Kimo uses it to describe men he considers effeminate or swishy. As if the word doesn’t really apply to him, because he is masculine. He is also called faggot by others who see all gay men as the same. It isn’t ever used lightly to remove the negative effect, but only as an insult. It might seem I have no reason to object because I am a heterosexual female. I do feel the sting of those words, though. I hate how the word is used to hurt others. Unfortunately, I can’t pretend that this isn’t representative to real life. People do use this word to be cruel and to show disrespect to those in the LGBT community. I’m not asking the author to water down the story to please me, but at times I felt uncomfortable. That might have been intentional. Still, I thought it was a talking point in regards to this story and wanted to share my thoughts.

Moving on and wrapping up! Mahu definitely isn’t a romance but there are a few elements and I have hopes that Kimo will meet someone over the course of the series. Outside of a few bad judgments on Kimo’s part in the beginning of the story, he really seems like one of the good guys. I want to see what life has in store for him in the future. If you enjoy a good mystery, I’d definitely recommend this book.

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Wonderful start to an exciting series

Every time I pick up a book narrated by Joel Leslie, my immediate reaction is always: "Oh no, not him again". There's just something about his tone/intonation that sounds condescending to me, and I can't stand condescending people so it gets my back up.

At the same time, Joel Leslie is also brilliant at narrating books. He makes them come alive. Every time. And he has such a wide range of accents that he delivers without fail. So even though the first few minutes of his books are a bit of a struggle for me, I always end up enjoying his narration, without fail. Which is why I keep forgetting that "oh no" moment each time I pick up his books.

Mahu was a really good combination of coming out intertwined in a murder mystery.

A drunken night out changes Kimo's life in ways he never expected.

On his way home after hanging out and drinking with his friends, Kimo impulsively decides to go into a gay bar not far from his home. Going into this bar is his first step to admitting who he really is - a gay man. And he is fascinated by what he finds, and so turned on. But most of all he is scared. Leaving the bar he witnesses a crime. A crime he has no idea how to handle.

I found it refreshing that Kimo was honest with his partner from the beginning and didn't cover up or make excuses for what he did and didn't do that night outside the bar. That easily could've turned out to be one of those big and dramatic dragged out secrets that just explodes in the end of the book. The ones where you're thinking "Why wasn't he just honest from the beginning?" I was honestly waiting (resigning myself) for it to happen but it never did. Sure he didn't shout it from the rooftop or tell everyone, but he did enough to keep it from becoming dramatic.

I liked Kimo and his struggles felt real. Sure he came across as melodramatic and a bit too scared of himself at times, but honestly - who am I to judge others feelings and beliefs? (And yes, I know that Kimo is a fictional character, but the sentiment still applies).

Something that didn't work for me was that basically as soon as Kimo started to admit to himself that he was gay, every gay guy he meets turns him on - and he turn them on. It was never ending and just too much. I don't know if it was supposed to be because that he was allowing himself to see, after repressing that side of him for so long, but it just didn't work for me. I really don't mind exploring or cruising/hooking up or whatever, but this came across more like a teen boy just discovering what his dick could do - with as much self-control...

This book was written some 10+ years ago, and you can tell that while reading. There are a number of issues raised in this book, and you realise how much some things have changed in that time in regards to rights and opinions, and how many that are (sadly) still the same.

I loved reading about Kimo's first stumbling steps towards admitting to himself and others that he was gay. You can feel that his struggles and fears are real. By the end of the book he still has a long way to go, but he is on his way, there's promise in that ending. It was a really good start to a promising series and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

A copy of this audiobook was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Didn't work for me

I'm kind of struggling for what to say in this review. This is my first exposure to this author and although this book was well written, I just didn't like the story and couldn't connect with this character, Kimo. I was aware that this was not a "romance" novel. It is a gay fiction story about a Hawaiian detective struggling with his sexuality. It is also an ongoing story in a series. What I enjoyed about this book was the performance of Joel Leslie in bringing a ton of different characters to life; various accents and dialects. I also liked Kimo's friend Harry and his Mom, but that was about it.

I tried to enjoy Kimo's journey of self discovery but found myself constantly rolling my eyes at his decisions and wanting to smack him. I swear throughout the book if there was a decision to be made that would make his life harder, he made it. Then I was frustrated when his words had no relation to his actions. For example, if you proclaim throughout the story that you don't want to be known as the "gay cop" then you probably shouldn't suggest giving a suspect a BJ to get a confession, REALLY!!?? Or when his brother gay bashes someone to the point they are in the hospital and after his initial outrage, it is brushed off as no big deal. It bordered on TSTL actions. In addition the, IMHO, poor police procedures and OTT homophobia just turned me off. He just doesn't come off as a competent law enforcement officer. Maybe it gets better as the series progresses, but this just didn't work for me.

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  • Sharon
  • 08-24-17

Well worth the price of admission

I'm a long time fan of Neil Plakcy and his Mahu series and I was very happy when Joel Leslie was given the task of bringing this story to life. I've been listening to it in the car and this has been making my long distance driving a real pleasure.
Joel's performance is excellent and and I cannot recommend this story highly enough.