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Readers offered embellished history, nice yearbook, meaty mystery

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"A Week of Terror: Ni’ihau, the ‘Forbidden’ Island"

By Tere Tremaine Fase (Jcrispin Publishing, $11.95)

I was contacted by the author a few weeks before this book was released, and was cheerfully informed that the content of the book was based almost wholly on a series of articles I had written for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Now that I have the completed volume in hand, I see that’s not quite true. Fase did rely on the newspaper stories for the central portion of the book but, in an effort to pad out the volume, also added canned histories of Niihau, a monograph of every member of the Hawaiian royal family, plus several dozen photographs. The narrative is also plumped up with fictional stylings to the point where it’s difficult to determine whether this is a history book or a novel.

The incident that took place on Niihau during the week after the attack on Pearl Harbor is the stuff of Hawaiian legend, and further scholarship is always welcome. Alas and auwe, "A Week of Terror" doesn’t really add anything to what we already know.

"Hawai’i’s Shining Star: Mun Lun School from 1911 to the Future"

Edited by Marietta Eng and Rosalind Mau (Mun Lun School, $15)

This is a kind of super-sized school yearbook celebrating the centennial of one of Honolulu’s oldest Chinese-language schools. It is handsome, colorful and inexpensive, and uses the school’s history as a context for looking at Honolulu’s history as well. There might not be many buyers out there beyond Mun Lun graduates and their families, although many of Honolulu’s leading citizens matriculated at Mun Lun.

A book signing and sale of "Hawai’i’s Shining Star" will occur 2:30 to 5 p.m. Friday at the campus at 1290 Maunakea St., as part of the school’s centennial commemoration. For information, call 595-3328.

"Captain Cooked: Hawaiian Mystery of Romance, Revenge … and Recipes!"

By S.P. Grogan (Addison & Highsmith, $16.95)

At the risk of calling this novel a potboiler, the title really does add up. It’s a mystery whodunit set amidst "foodie" television stars and the Big Island hotel industry, and it contains both recipes and clues to locate a "treasure" somewhere on the island. This last is something of a habit for the publishers.

The heroine is videographer Madison Merlot Dayne, whose father is a globe-trotting food-TV personality, and they’re in Hawaii for a special cook-off linked to a major resort opening.

They get there just in time to witness a beloved, size-large Hawaiian musical personality succumb to poi poisoning. The author manages also to tie in multinational investing and a rather unique underground Hawaiian nationalism movement that is investing in the tourism business.

As mysteries go it’s not exactly Agatha Christie, although there are enough false leads and clues to keep the reader guessing. There’s a side plot involving geocaching, a treasure-hunting game using a GPS, that feels as if it were shoehorned into the narrative and unnecessarily overcomplicates the solution. The book is also written in a rather odd, overly cute style that might wear a reader’s patience. Like whipped cream on poi, it doesn’t quite mix. The recipes look tasty, however, and the meat of the novel is novel enough to spark interest among filmmakers. (Author Grogan will be in Honolulu on Feb. 25 and 26 for book signings at Barnes & Noble and Borders.)

 

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