this is the 174th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books.
Diamond Head by Charles Knief, © 1996, St. Martin’s Press – Dead Letter – 1998 paperback, the first John Caine novel – mystery
This book was the winner of the 7th St. Martin’s/PWA contest for Best First Private Eye novel. It was published as a hardcover in 1996 and as a Dead Letter Crime paperback in 1998 (shown). This is Knief’s first John Caine novel, with Sand Dollars following.
Caine is a P.I. in Hawaii. In the tradition of Travis McGee, Caine lives on a boat – this time a sailboat – on the shore of Oahu. He pays the bills by doing “favors” for friends, usually pretty simple tasks like tracking down someone or something, lost property or persons, or by running the occasional high risk errand.
This time it’s a friend asking a favor, a big one: “Find my daughter’s killer.” The father is Vice Admiral Winston MacGruder III, the daughter may have been involved with some pretty nasty underworld types, but the biggest problem is potential scandal. The Vice Admiral has political ambitions, and the daughter may have not just been bad, but been bad on film, participating in hard core porn and possibly becoming the victim in a snuff film racket.
That’s pretty grim stuff, but Knief handles it with care, there isn’t a lot of nastiness on the pages, just enough to let us know how bad things are for the victim, and how serious the people involved are to escape arrest.
I thought this one was pretty good, and enjoyed the second book as well. Though the novel suffers a few first novel problems, with a little awkward dialogue in a couple of places and a convenient friend, it has a strong ending and memorable characters. Good one.
I think I did a Knief book for FFB a couple of years ago. He stopped writing, but in a 2012 interview he said he was going to work on his two unfinished books and see if anyone wanted them. I don’t know what happened after that.
This is an oldie from The Perp days… I remember that post of yours
12 years after I left Oahu, I’d probably still like the local color and background details..will look to this one (a cross between McGee and Magnum?).
I’m doing FFB this week..will try not to be too tardy! Hope the problems are easily solved…
I’ve seen this and considered trying it over the years but so far I haven’t. I did read a newer first mystery set in Hawaii a year or so ago that I enjoyed – Charley Memminger’s ALOHA, LADY BLUE. I don’t know if there was a sequel.
I like the old TV show, HAWAIIAN EYE. I’ll look for this book.
Just ran across “Chuck” Knief on Facebook. He seems to be having a great life. Don’t know if he’s still writing, but he lists “writer” as one of his jobs.
Bill, that’ sevruga cool. Thanks!