In 1931, Nate Heller - on a leave of absence from the Chicago P.D. - goes to Hawaii to work as an investigator for family friend Clarence Darrow. One of five Honolulu natives accused of the rape of recent bride Thalia Massie has been murdered; facing murder charges are Thalia’s naval officer husband and her socialite mother. Something doesn’t seem right, and Darrow has brought Heller in to get to the bottom of it. A first-rate detective thriller, Max Allan Collins’ Damned in Paradise shimmers with authenticity as it drives inexorably towards its grave conclusion. Heller - aided by Chang Apana, the real-life model for Charlie Chan - determines that while Thalia surely was raped, the identity of her attackers are in question, and the lush tropical setting cannot dispel the morass of bigotry, lies, and revenge through which the young detective must wade to reach the bitter truth.
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STRANGE FRUIT HANGING FROM HAWAIIAN PALMS.....
The Nathan Heller series is only a "guilty pleasure" for me. I usually read more complex historical books based on fact. I don't want to downplay Max Allen Collins' talent but I've listened to over 2,000 audiobooks and would not rank it very highly among those works. However, that doesn't mean it's not a great book. If I compare this book to others in the written "film noir" genre, I'd have to say it's in the Top 5.
The only books like this, done this well, are all by this author.
The amount of racism disturbed me. I have never heard the word "nigger" so many times without one single black person in the book anywhere! The hate was directed to the citizens of Hawaii - not the white ones on Pearl Harbor - the real Hawaiians whose island the whites took over. This story could have just as easily taken place in Mississippi with black men being railroaded over some allegedly raped cheating married white woman. That's what my title refers to: the unfair justice given to people of color. The only difference here is that the hatred is directed towards Hawaiians. Who knew there was some other "niggers" in this country that whites dogged out?!"Southern trees bear a strange fruit,Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."
Nathan Heller is always charming and Dan John Miller gives him a lovable "Richie Cunningham" quality.
- Linda Lou