Dana reviews the audiobook Mahu (Mahu Series Book 1) by Neil S. Plakcy (Audiobook Published by MLR Press, August 8, 2017, Length: 11 hours, Narrated by Joe Leslie. Ebook published by MLR Press, December 10, 2010, 352 pages) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I listened to this – I am a big fan of audiobooks and of this narrator. This story is more gay mystery than my normal m/m romance audios, but I enjoy a good mystery and I was excited to get a chance to review this book.
Blurb: Mahu—a generally negative Hawaiian term for homosexuals—introduces a unique character to detective fiction. Kimo Kanapa’aka is a handsome, mixed-race surfer living in Honolulu, a police detective confronting his homosexuality in an atmosphere of macho bravado within the police force.
A man of intelligence, strength, honesty, resourcefulness, and intense dedication to the people of Hawaii, Kimo is a hard-boiled hero you will never forget. Fast-paced, intricately plotted, thoroughly enjoyable, this is a sexy, surprisingly moving mystery about discovering oneself as much as catching a killer.
©2010 MLR Press (P)2017 MLR Press
The narration: As I mentioned above, I am a big fan of Joel Leslie. I have listened to thirty-three books narrated by him and though I’m sure that is no record or anything, I have enjoyed all of those books. He has provided dozens of accents for the characters in previous books and is great at modulating voices within the same accent so that each character has his or her own sound. In Mahu, over half of the characters in the book speak with an Asian accent, since it takes place in Hawaii. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy some of the narrator’s accents in this book. The Asian accents sound too strong and just a little too broken for me. It did make the experience a little less enjoyable, but that doesn’t reflect on Joel’s ability to pull me into a story with his voice acting. He emotes so well. And though I have some critique for the narration in Mahu, I know that will not effect my purchasing audiobooks narrated by Joel Leslie in the future. I am still a big fan.
The story: I looked up the word Mahu before I started listening to the book and discovered it is a Hawaiian term for people who embody both the male and female spirit. It’s also known as a third gender. The Hawaiian culture was ahead of time when it came to gender identity. From reading this book, it seems like it is used as an insulting name for gay and lesbian women at the time the story was written. The original publication of this story was in 2005, I believe, and I think the story takes place around that time as well. Kimo running to find a pay phone makes me believe that this story takes place before everyone carried cell phones, but after the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s.
The main character of this story is Kimo Kanapa’aka. At the beginning of the story he is very closeted and a bit in denial of his sexuality. He is an undercover detective who has only had relationships with women. He and his team go out for a drink after a bust goes bad, but what happens after that changes Kimo’s whole life. Kimo stumbles across a body outside a gay bar and he starts to compromise himself in order to protect his secret. Only he can’t continue to keep silent about that either. Not completely. And now, Kimo is wanting more from his life than a lie.
There is a small part of this story that features Kimo discovering his own wants and needs. There is a longing for someone to share his life with. The story is also about Kimo trying to find out where he stands within the police department and his family. The biggest part of the story is the mystery of who killed the mystery man Kimo found and why. There are a lot of twists and turns as Kimo tries to solve this case. The culprit wasn’t entirely unexpected for me, however the reason that it happened was not what I expected.
There is a hot button topic in this book, I think. The use of the “F” word. Over the course of the book the word faggot or fag is used many times. It is thrown around when they find the murdered body outside a gay club. Kimo uses it to describe men he considers effeminate or swishy. As if the word doesn’t really apply to him, because he is masculine. He is also called faggot by others who see all gay men as the same. It isn’t ever used lightly to remove the negative effect, but only as an insult. It might seem I have no reason to object because I am a heterosexual female. I do feel the sting of those words, though. I hate how the word is used to hurt others. Unfortunately, I can’t pretend that this isn’t representative to real life. People do use this word to be cruel and to show disrespect to those in the LGBT community. I’m not asking the author to water down the story to please me, but at times I felt uncomfortable. That might have been intentional. Still, I thought it was a talking point in regards to this story and wanted to share my thoughts.
Moving on and wrapping up! Mahu definitely isn’t a romance but there are a few elements and I have hopes that Kimo will meet someone over the course of the series. Outside of a few bad judgments on Kimo’s part in the beginning of the story, he really seems like one of the good guys. I want to see what life has in store for him in the future. If you enjoy a good mystery, I’d definitely recommend this book.
A journalist, book reviewer and college professor, he is also a frequent contributor to gay anthologies.
A three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary award, he teaches at writers’ conferences and can often be found walking his two golden retrievers.