Five Decembers

Hard Case Crime: Titan. Oct. 2021. 432p. ISBN 9781789096118. $22.99. M
DEBUT In pseudonymous author Kestrel’s World War II–set debut, Honolulu detective Joe McGrady investigates the brutal homicide of a young man. At the crime scene, he discovers a second body, a woman, also killed in brutal fashion. Over the course of his investigation, Joe returns to the murder site, where he’s attacked and shoots his assailant in self-defense. But the real killer is still at large, and his trail leads to Hong Kong. Joe follows but is imprisoned in a Hong Kong jail on a false rape charge on December 7, 1941. Then Pearl Harbor is attacked, Hong Kong is taken by the Japanese, and an unlikely ally saves Joe from certain death and hides him in a Tokyo house, where Joe lives for the next four years. While there, he finds love but it falters. The war over, Joe returns to Honolulu to find that his prewar sweetheart is lost too. Picking up the thread of his old investigation gives purpose to Joe’s otherwise purposeless life. In the process of solving the case, he encounters enemies he hadn’t expected to find.
VERDICT This is hardboiled fiction at its best: an exceptional tale, filled with emotion, plenty of surprises, and enough violence to satisfy the most bloodthirsty reader.
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