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Set in Honolulu during the summer of 2007, Rodney Morales’s For a Song melds actual events into an edgy detective novel that evokes contemporary Hawai`i as a place where the hauntingly beautiful and the hauntingly tragic too often intersect. Against a backdrop of political scandal and police corruption, the richly complex plot is driven by true-to-life characters and crisp dialogue.
David “Kawika” Apana is a reporter turned private detective who has hit rock bottom. Divorced and broke, his career is resuscitated when he gambles all and wins in a game of high stakes poker. He accepts a deal to trade in most of his winnings for a boat, which becomes his new home and office. His first client is a vivacious middle-aged blonde, Minerva Alter, who hires him to find her missing daughter, Caroline “Kay” Johnson, a budding filmmaker and activist in her twenties. Apana is startled to learn that Minerva was once married to Lino Johnson, a petty criminal brazenly gunned down in Honolulu’s Chinatown eighteen years earlier—an unsolved murder he covered during his reporter days.
As Apana undertakes the investigation, he finds it opens a widening network of intrigue that includes Kay’s missing boyfriend and her murdered father. With her film project and her activism, especially that of challenging a planned development on conservation land, Kay has been a thorn in the side of Hawai`i’s powers that be. Apana’s pursuit of leads takes him all over O`ahu: from the metro downtown area, to the Windward and Leeward coasts, to the fabled North Shore, and to places beyond. It also takes him back in years as he revisits the Lino Johnson murder and discovers how much he had missed the first time around.