Cover Image: Death of a Messenger

Death of a Messenger

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Member Reviews

As usual a new Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery is a call for celebration and 3 well deserved hours of reading bliss. Tensly written with razor sharp dialogues and an incredible plot, this latest whodunit in this fabulous series kept me on the hege of my seat from start to finish. Murder, mutilated body, shady characters, depraved characters, disgusting characters and all the criminal shenanigans taking place in Hawaii! So do I wish for more? Yes, more Koa Kane. So please Mr. McCaw back to work😉👍 To be enjoyed without moderation.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Oceanview Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this great novel prior to its release date
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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Death of a Messenger is not the first Robert McCaw book I’ve read, although it is the first in the Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery series. I had earlier read and reviewed Book #3 in the series – Fire and Vengeance. The first two books were on my TBR, so I was quite excited when I received this book for a review. Read on to know more.


352 pages 

Detective Koa Kāne is called in to investigate a murder when a body is discovered in a lava tube at Pohakuloa, the army’s live-fire training area. In his many years on the force, Koa has seen a lot of horrific sites, but the mutilated body with signs of a ritualistic killing is one of the worst. Koa is determined to find the person capable of such horror while forced to fight against an ineffective ME, hostility from both nativists and westerners, and personal demons born of his own past actions. With grave robbers, thieves, astronomers, and nativists falling into the suspect pool and everyone concerned to the case sharing more lies than truth, Koa needs to use every skill, intuition, and bit of experience to find out who the victim was, why he was murdered, and who is behind the heinous mutilation.

Overall Rating:
7 out of 10

8 out of 10

9 out of 10

Primary Element:
8 out of 10 for its mystery

Writing Style:
5 out of 10

Part of a Series: 
Yes. This is Book #1 in the Koa Kāne series, followed by Off the Grid and Fire and Vengeance.

Highlighted Takeaway:
The depth of information regarding traditional Hawaiian practices and traditions. Like other books in the series, Death of a Messenger stays true to showcasing the various facets, past and present, of the region in which it is set.

What I Liked:
Death of a Messenger is a classic whodunnit. Or, as Captain Holt of Brooklyn Nine-Nine says, a ‘who has done this’. A series of suspects, all of whom have motive, keeps the story moving and the reader, guessing.

What I Didn’t Like:
Maybe it’s because this is the first book in the series, but I noticed that it had a lot of “tell, not show” instead of it being vice versa. There were random mentions of back stories when, instead, the point being overly-repeated could have simply been shown in character development after a couple of mentions. I found the writing style in those segments really strange and off-putting, and think the story could have done a lot better without the excessive repetition. (Much like this paragraph, you may be thinking!)

Who Should Read It:
Anyone who likes mystery, learning about new places (Death of a Messenger does not stray far from reality in setting and history), and suspense will enjoy this Koa Kāne story. In spite of its few shortcomings, it is an interesting read.

Who Should Avoid:
Anyone uncomfortable with gore or violence – while not over the top, there is some violence in Death of a Messenger that can be a bit too graphic for those who are uncomfortable with it.

Read It For:
Koa Kāne. The leading character in the series is a relatable, likable, and kind-hearted person, with enough shades of gray to make you want to follow his story.
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A good whodunit story with plenty of Hawaii's history included.  The cast of characters were interesting with Koa has the main one.  I liked the book.
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Death of a Messenger is a modern murder procedural set in Hawaii and the first book in the Koa Kāne series by Robert McCaw. Originally released in 2015, this reformat and re-release by Oceanview is 336 pages and available in ebook format. 

This is a well written procedural with an ensemble cast including a sympathetic protagonist with a very complex past. There's a great deal of archaeology and Hawaiian history written into the storyline as well as the complications arising from inter-departmental friction (the remains of a ritualistic murder victim were discovered on military land). I enjoyed Koa Kāne's competence and intelligence while his team are resolving the murder and related looting/antiquities crimes.  

There is some rough language and a fair number of graphic descriptions (the original corpse is ritually mutilated and the author pulls no punches). The scenery and island historical background are well interwoven into the storyline and I found it compelling.

Four stars. Recommended for fans of modern procedurals and forensic mysteries. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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Death of a Messenger is a twisty whodunnit, investigated by Chief Detective Koa Kane and his team.  At first I found it quite challenging to get into and didn't know whether I'd enjoy it, which is surprising for me with the nature of the story at the beginning.  However, I think because its set in Hawaii, I found a lot of the words difficult to pronounce which slowed down my reading and made it a bit stilted.  Obviously this is to be expected in a novel set somewhere wonderful and exotic but it didn't 'grab me' from the beginning as others do.

Although after about the first 10-15%, I was hooked!  The story is complex and twisty, and will keep you guessing.  I literally had no clue as to who the killer was!  McCaw interweaved some bits together which I absolutely loved.

I really enjoyed the historical and archaeological side of this story (for anyone that knows me that's obvious!).  It was fascinating to learn bits about the history and traditions of Hawaii - a place that, if I'm honest, I know little about.  The fact that the story incorporated looting of archaeological sites is something that is all too real and a frustration for those of us that want to learn about the past.

The other thing I truly loved were some of the characters.  I love Koa - he's a fantastic character; a wonderful man but with his own secret past that haunts him.  Despite this, he is a good and loyal guy and you can't help but love him.  Hook and Nalani are also fantastic - I loved them both.  There are some proper shady characters in this too! Getting to know more about them was brilliant and bought a good edge to the story.

Obviously a book set in Hawaii is going to be fantastic and this is true to form.  It's definitely encouraged me to do some more digging into Hawaii and I loved googling the places to bring them to life for me!

So overall, a brilliant whodunnit mystery with plenty of twists and fantastic characters.  It may take a little while to get into but I would encourage you to persevere - it's definitely worth it. There are more Koa Kane books in the series and I'm definitely be up for reading more about him - especially since I loved him so much!  So if you're looking for a mystery in a different setting then check this out!

Rating 3.5
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A complex and unusual murder mystery with a unique setting

Hawaiian Detective Koa Kane is called to investigate a grisly murder – a mutilated body discovered at an army training area after an anonymous phone call is made to the police. The victim is difficult to identify and bears disturbing marks indicating an ancient ritual sacrifice. Further investigation uncovers an unknown archaeological site nearby and leads Kane to wonder if the victim had stumbled across a rare historical secret people will kill to protect. As he delves further into the investigation, he uncovers links to grave robbers, political activists, and astronomers. He must use all his wits to solve the case whilst dealing with various forms of adversity in his professional and personal life.

This was a very enjoyable, fast-paced crime thriller with plenty of twists and turns throughout. The plot is complex and well-crafted but never becomes confusing, and I was easily able to keep track of all the characters and their relationships with each other. There are a good handful of convincing suspects in the case, and the author does an excellent job of sprinkling clues and red herrings throughout the story, making the reader second-guess and double back as much as the detective does. Kane himself was a likeable character who clearly has a strong sense of right and wrong, and many of the secondary characters also came across as well-imagined and exciting. I also learnt a lot about Hawaii from this story. The author includes many interesting references to its history and culture that were refreshingly different from the idealised version of Hawaii portrayed in most films.

Whilst he was engaging and likeable, I do have to admit that I found the character of  Kane a bit of a cliché. Many of his character traits were remarkably like the standard lead police detective that is regularly found in these sorts of crime thrillers. One aspect of his past also seemed to be mentioned quite frequently to 'build his personality'. Still, throughout the book, it didn't really seem to influence him in any substantial way (although this may have been expanded upon in future instalments).

In conclusion, this was an enjoyable crime thriller that transports the reader to Hawaii's idyllic state and then shows you its dark side. I would be interested in reading more about the characters in this book.


Elite Reviewing Group received a copy of this book to review.
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Koa Kane is drawn into the investigation of a body within a lava tube that has a ritualistic aspect to it. There are concerns about the archaeological site the body was found in, which has strong ties to Hawaiian culture. This means the roster of suspects includes grave robbers, activists, and even astronomers, and he already has too many obstacles to overcome. How the body was killed is less of a problem than why: was his secret so dangerous it will get others killed?

Hawaiian myth and culture is steeped throughout this novel, as well as Koa’s back story. Even for those that didn’t read the prior novel, his history is mentioned several times across several chapters. It slows down the flow of the investigation, and there are many interesting characters for Koa to interview. Once we get past that a few chapters in, the pace picks up and then I was drawn into the story more. There is the murder to look into, as well as the archaeological site, the astronomers on the mountain, and the politics involved with both. Major players in the search are tied to the ancient Hawaiian royal lineage and the movement to reclaim Hawaii for Hawaiians.

I enjoyed seeing the story unfold, and that it's about the small details to get to the bottom of the mystery. Koa pays attention to those details, from the way people react to each other, to missing items, to misshapen areas that hide clues and illegal activities. It's something of a surprise when we get to the ending and all those clues come together and we're told what had happened. This was a book that drew me in and captured my attention, and I raced to get to the end. Very tensely done, and I look forward to future books featuring Koa Kane.
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Fun read with lots of twists and suspicious characters. I refused to trust anyone, and it's a good thing, as several characters were involved in different schemes throughout the book. I also learned that Hawaii can have blizzards in their highest mountains!
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Death of a Messenger by Robert McCaw is one book that will keep you reading until late in the night. I was intrigued by the language, descriptions, and the characters developed by the writer. A 911 call tells of a body that was found in Pohakuloa where the Army has a live fire testing site. It becomes clear that the body had been part of an ancient ritual sacrifice and had been tortured. The medical examiner was useless and was not providing any type of information to the police as to what actually happened to the deceased. Could the victim caused his own death after stumbling upon an ancient artifact? Or was it someone or something that he saw and they wanted him kept quiet. This book is well written and very descriptive. The beauty of the area is told very eloquently. This is a great thriller.

Thank you to netgalley as well as the author for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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This was an unusual book.  I haven't read others in this series but going by this one, I probably won't.  I can't really say I liked the book but didn't especially dislike it either.  There were parts that were good - - some interesting facts about Hawaii and Hawaiians, and history.  The story moved slowly in places then suddenly extreme action.  It seemed like a lot was just thrown in to complete the book.  The characters were ok - though not particularly believable to me.
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It's a little difficult to describe what I thought of this book without giving too much away. I can say that I learned a little about Hawaii and the Hawaiian heritage. There was lots happening, and it was complex. Following the story from the time a body was discovered in a remote area and through to the end with the capture of the suspect, I did find it an interesting read. This was the first time I've read a book by this author, and I will most likely read his other books. Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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cultural-heritage, cultural-exploration, procedural, law-enforcement, Hawaii, archaeologist, artifact, astronomy, telescope, suspense*****

How can you lose reading this! Hawaiian culture and legends, police procedural, astronomers with a world class telescope, an amazing archaeologist, lava tubes, and a gruesome murder. The due diligence was excruciating and there was so much ancillary information that I got lost in it and almost missed the significance of some of the red herrings. And don't forget the sneaky plot twists. The characters were well done and all too believable. It grabbed me in the morning and held on all day until it was finished! Hope there are more to come!
I requested and received a free temporary ebook from Oceanview Publishing via NetGalley. Thank you!
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Robert B. McCaw showcases an unusual murder in his police procedural DEATH OF A MESSENGER . This is the first book in the Loa Kane Hawaiian Mystery series.

An anonymous 911 caller reports a dead body at the Army’s live-fire training area at Pohakuloa. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane meets the Army at the site after it has been cleared as safe. During the course of the investigation, he has to overcome a large number of impediments and complications to the case.

Detective Koa grows on the reader as the story develops. His pursuit of honor for a past action came through clearly. His dealing with budget cuts, a health problem, political pressure, and a friend asking for help during the course of a murder investigation made him feel more realistic. There were a large number of secondary characters, but I did not have any trouble keeping track of them. As the series continues, I expect some of these to re-occur and gain more depth.

The pace of the book was a little slow initially, but picked up rapidly and stayed accelerated until the dramatic conclusion. There are plenty of twists, turns, and complications as well as several sub-plots. The author did a great job of world-building and gave a strong sense of place. There was a good balance between the investigation and the cultural and historical aspects that were included. I never felt that the book was diverging away from the pursuit of the killer. My one quibble with the book is that the women in the book were largely portrayed as weak. I hope this changes in future books.

Overall, this an engaging story that transported me to Hawaii when I was enduring a snowstorm. What more could I ask? Well, I also learned some things about Hawaiian culture and history, archeology and astronomy.

The bottom line: If you enjoy police procedurals and crime thrillers with relatable characters, then I recommend you check out this series.
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When I requested Death of a Messenger by Robert McCaw and began reading, I was initially intrigued by the premise. The book starts with a body found in an interesting and unique setting, a lava tube in Hawaii. McCaw does a good job describing this setting in a rich way.

Unfortunately, McCaw buries this interesting premise under too much backstory, info-dump, and overdone tropes. I found this both interesting and annoying. Interesting in that this novel is the prequel to a series, so I would think much of this information was woven into books in the series. Having not read the other books, I can’t be sure of this. As a reader of just this book, the information was disruptive, as it did not contribute to my understanding of this plot, and pulled me out of the story.

The relationships the main character has with those around him are not well developed. Kane’s girlfriend is presented as a perfect trophy (who Kane offers to step in and protect when she faces challenges at work), while other characters are mostly two-dimensional combatants often described in negative ways. In the end, I ended up feeling that the main character was a judgmental man, and a bit of a bully.

In particular, I did not enjoy the ending of the book. To me, it felt both far fetched and full of all-powerful-man tropes. 

While this book might appeal to some readers, it was definitely not for me. I will not be reading other books in this series, as the main character is not someone I want to spend more time with.
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My knowledge of Hawaii begins and ends with the remake of the TV series Hawaii 5-0. This book was a lot more detailed, more interesting and more entertaining than that series. As well as knowing little about Hawaii I have no knowledge of archaeology or astronomy, but it didn’t stop me enjoying this novel. 

Whilst I have no knowledge of archaeology I found this aspect of the novel fascinating, I’m not sure I would like to discover some of the finds, they were a little creepy and intimidating but the author did a wonderful job of showing how important they were to those who have an interest. I enjoyed reading about the history of Hawaii, the way of life and the often antagonistic attitude between Hawaii and the United States. It was something I had never considered, but it was believable

Koa, the lead detective in this novel was a character I warmed to straight away. Like many before him he had a skeleton in his closet, but he lived his life trying to make amends for what he did. I found him to be devoted and protective towards his partner, loyal to his friends and respectful of Hawaiian history and culture. 

There were plenty of red herrings, quite a few dubious characters who could have been the murderer and I liked trying to work out who it could be. I was incorrect but the ending worked perfectly.
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What appears as a ritual sacrifice, Hawaii Detective Koa faces an investigation like no other he has seen.  A grisly crime scene with a body found in the Army training area leads the detective to think this was a ancient ritual sacrifice. A host of characters are introduced with suspicious motives and backgrounds. It comes down to dissecting the victim's background and the connection with the suspects and leaving well-respected Koa's reputation in tact. The most fascinating facts about Hawaii are dispersed making this an interesting read about the sacred grounds and the island's rituals. I loved the ending! This made a great mystery to solve for all of us reading detectives. 
Since it is a series, I'm ready for the next one. Thanks NetGalley for the opportunity to read this for exchange of my honest review.
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"Journey deep into the exotic locales of Hawaii’s Big Island to discover its language, culture - and crime.

On Hawaii Island, an anonymous 911 caller reports a body at Pohakuloa, the Army’s live-fire training area. Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane, a cop with his own secret criminal past, finds a mutilated corpse - bearing all the hallmarks of ancient ritual sacrifice.

He encounters a host of obstacles as he pursues the murderer - an incompetent local medical examiner, hostility from both haoles (Westerners) and sovereignty advocates, and a myriad of lies. Koa races to discover whether the victim stumbled upon a gang of high-tech archaeological thieves, or learned a secret so shocking it cost him his life and put others in mortal danger.

Will Hilo’s most respected detective stop this sadistic fiend - or will the Pohakuloa killer strike again, with even deadlier consequences?"

I might be suffering from severe Magnum withdrawals and this book kept me going!
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It genuinely felt like this book was written by one person for the first 60% and another for the last 40%. Maybe this has something to do with the book being a reissue from 2015, telling the first chronological story of the Koa Kane Hawaiian Mystery series, and perhaps being updated for 2021. What I know for sure is that there's a definite cognitive dissonance from the first sixty percent, where Koa sounds like a moderately racist, moderately misogynistic white man in disguise, with the last forty where he wonders whether non-native Hawaiians have undergone sufficient sensitivity training in their professional fields for saying milder things than he himself has expressed or let pass without comment. I was certainly glad for the 180 in attitude, but it happened so abruptly that it made for really weird reading.

The story itself is alright: Koa Kane is a 40-something detective on the underfunded Hawaii police force, living with his seven years younger (tho the numbers get fiddly partway through the book for no discernible reason) partner, astronomer Nalani. He's worrying about budget cuts and a pinched nerve in his neck when a mutilated body is found in a lava tube on an army firing range. Investigations lead to such disparate factions as the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, as well as to archaeological black marketeers and the scientists up at Nalani's workplace, the (fictional) Alice Observatory located on the slopes of Mauna Kea. It's a wide-ranging look at current Hawaiian society and politics that serves as a fascinating introduction to the area. Did you know that Mauna Kea in winter features sub-arctic temperatures and snowfall? I sure didn't! In fact, I actively doubted what Robert B McCaw was telling me for the longest time because he did not acknowledge that snow is not something you'd expect in fricking Hawaii of all places! I don't expect to have my hand held in real world narratives but I do expect some awareness of out-group perspectives, tho I guess the constant disparaging allusions to an ob-gyn as a "baby doctor" (like, why is that disreputable? He helps bring children into the world. Is it because he does this by helping people with uteruses and heaven knows, <i>those</i> people aren't to be taken seriously?) after also saying, "The army probably killed his relatives during the war. At least, I hope so" about a Japanese-Hawaiian person who dislikes the military, are indicative of blissful lack of same. And then there's a weird bit in the afterword where I wondered whether somebody needed an explanation as to how sex can lead to pregnancy. I still also don't understand why Kane was so hostile to the sovereignty groups, likely because their aims are never really explained in comparison to the amount of scorn heaped on them. I'm fairly certain sovereignty groups aren't advocating for Hawaii to cut off all its electricity, as claimed in the book.

Trouble is, it's always important -- and <i>especially</i> when writing outside of your culture -- to make sure you have a firm grasp of all the perspectives you might be encountering and to present them all ethically, lest your writing fall on the side of propaganda. You don't have to be sympathetic to differing points of view, and you're certainly under no obligation to keep your personal views quiet, but you still have to explain key cultural/political motivations in your own narrative if you have any hope of making the reader understand what's going on. As far as I could gather from this novel, sovereignty activists want to go back to the old days by cutting off electricity but are hypocrites for... wearing cowboy boots? What cartoon villain nonsense is this?

I also feel that this would have been the kind of book which benefits from the author reading the dialog aloud to hear the naturalness of it or otherwise. I wasn't a huge fan of the pacing either: while nothing happening then everything happening all at once is realistic in terms of real life police work, it doesn't make for the most interesting reading, especially with an internally inconsistent main character. Maybe this series gets better as it goes, but in the meantime, if I'm looking for a Hawaiian police procedural, I'll probably stick to Debra Bokur's <a href="">The Fire Thief</a>: she might also be a haole but at least her writing feels reflective of actual Hawaiians (and of women: good grief, the one-dimensional nature of the female characters in Death Of A Messenger!) Honestly, I would love recommendations for contemporary Hawaiian literature written by people born a/o raised in Hawaii, especially in the mystery genre. Comments are open, as always!

Death Of A Messenger by Robert B McCaw was published January 5th, 2021 by Oceanview Publishing and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="">Bookshop!</a> Want it now? For the Kindle version, <a href="">click here</a>.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Oceanview Publishing for a review copy of Death of a Messenger, a prequel to the Koa Kane series, set on Hawai’i’s Big Island.

Chief of Detectives Koa Kane is summoned to a murder scene. The body of a young male has been found in a lava cone and appears to have been killed ritualistically. Identifying the body is difficult, identifying a motive even more so with so many in the mix, sovereign rights activists, antiquity smugglers and problems at work. 

I enjoyed Death of a Messenger which is the first novel in the series that have I read. I never know if it is best in a series to follow the character or author’s timeline but this is a good introduction. It is told entirely from Koa’s point of view so it’s easy to get immersed in the narrative, follow his thinking and get a general feel for his character. 

The plot is interesting, not just for events and the way it develops but for the light it shines on heritage issues in Hawai’i (I’m spelling it as it is in the novel). I am an inveterate fictional tourist so I picked to read this novel because I don’t know a lot (make that close to zero) about Hawai’i. The detail about antiquity looting, sovereign rights and native history was fascinating and gave me a better understanding of the place and the issues. I liked that Koa with native heritage but doing a haole, i.e. western, job is caught between two worlds, as was the victim. It makes the issues more immediate. The actual plot, finding a murderer is good and absorbing as Koa and his team run down possibilities, game the suspects and uncover other crimes along the way. I liked the way they are able to link separate events into a cohesive whole. 

I would like to say that there is never a dull moment in the novel but there is a lot of science involved as the victim works in astronomy at the telescope at Mauna Kea. It went straight over my head. Also I found myself confused by the Hawaiian place names. This is no fault of the author, simply my inability to process unfamiliar words.

Death of a Messenger is a good read that I have no hesitation in recommending.
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If you follow me either here on the blog or on instagram (@speakingof_books), you will know that Mysteries and Detective series are my bread and butter. I love them. I love getting to know the characters and following their careers. I mean Law & Order SUV is my favorite show, so of course I love a good crime series.

I’ll be honest and say I thought this was going to be a 3 star read while reading the first part of the book. I wasn’t super into it, mainly because there were a lot of Hawaiian references that I just did not understand. That learning curve really took away from the story for me at first and made the pacing quite slow. However, as we go through the story and I became more familiar with the Hawaiian culture, I started to really appreciate the added references. The first half of the book was almost information overload with all the names of gods and places. I even stopped and did a little research on some of those referenced to try and get a better grasp on the history. I’ve been to Hawaii twice but their culture is so rich in myths and lore that as an outside it’s hard to truly understand the range and impact it has had on the Island.

The history of the Islands comes in perfect into the plot of the story. While there are two separate cases going on throughout the story, they nice into each other seamlessly. The antiquity black-market , the added astrology specifically related to the Alice Observatory, and of course an endless supply of suspects really brought this book together for me.

Character wise, Koa Kane, our detective is a bit clique at first, Which I generally don’t mind since the plot lines are more important to me in a crime book than unique characters. But Koa Kane has a ton of growth throughout this story and we really get a feel for his honor and loyalty to the Hawaiian culture.

This was not my favorite series I have read recently, but I would most certainly pick up the second book.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Death of a Messenger. Huge thank you to Oceanview for my eARC for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.
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