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Pleasing the Dead

Pleasing the Dead

4.5 2
by Deborah Turrell Atkinson

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Some nasty predators dwell in paradise, and they arenat all hiding in the azure waters. The day attorney Storm Kayama arrives in Kahului to help Lara Farrell set up her new dive shop, someone bombs a restaurant. When one of Laraas employees, a recent Japanese immigrant, kills himself and one of his young daughters, Storm begins to ask questions.
The tentacles


Some nasty predators dwell in paradise, and they arenat all hiding in the azure waters. The day attorney Storm Kayama arrives in Kahului to help Lara Farrell set up her new dive shop, someone bombs a restaurant. When one of Laraas employees, a recent Japanese immigrant, kills himself and one of his young daughters, Storm begins to ask questions.
The tentacles of the Yakuza, the dangerous, Japanese organized crime group, grip local businesses, real estate, and politics. Cunning and deadly, the clan leaders exploit underage women and eliminate anyone who dares face up to them.
Storm finds herself up against a lethal and faceless enemy, in a place where disposing of a victim is easy as dumping her in shark-infested waters.
But who is hunting whom? In a struggle to the death, Storm begins to realize that surviving doesnat always mean living. For some, the ghosts of the past may be more painful than the anguish of the present.
Hawaii lawyer Storm Kayama must battle against the yakuza's presence and an ancient adherence to tradition to save more young girls from a terrible fate.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“In this fourth in the series, Atkinson continues to mix realistic stories of contemporary Hawaii with facts about the islands’ past. The combination goes far beyond the tunnel-vision tourist’s view.” –Booklist of Pleasing the Dead

“Rich with Hawaiian folklore, Atkinson's convoluted fourth mystery to feature attorney Storm Kayama (after 2007's Fire Prayer) explores the dark side of paradise…Readers will root for the strong, likable Storm as she uncovers secrets on an island that's only idyllic on the surface.”
Publishers Weekly of Pleasing the Dead

Publishers Weekly

Rich with Hawaiian folklore, Atkinson's convoluted fourth mystery to feature attorney Storm Kayama (after 2007's Fire Prayer) explores the dark side of paradise. Soon after Storm arrives in Kahului, Maui, where she's handling the legalities of setting up a new dive shop for a client, Lara Farrell, she hears of a deadly explosion at a town restaurant. At Lara's dive shop, which is still under construction, Storm witnesses a Japanese workman, Hiroki, being reprimanded for drunkenness and, later, another employee sobbing. When Hiroki kills himself and one of his two daughters, Storm reaches out to the second daughter, who survived the attack. Drawing on her knowledge of local customs and the "coconut wireless," Hawaii's gossip chain, Storm finds links between the recent tragedies and the yakuza, a Japanese crime organization active in the islands. Readers will root for the strong, likable Storm as she uncovers secrets on an island that's only idyllic on the surface. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Attorney Storm Kayama (Primitive Secrets; The Green Room; Fire Prayer) is helping Lara Farrel open a dive shop on the island of Maui when a restaurant bombing and the suicide of one of Lara's employees draws Storm into the web of the yakuza, the Japanese mob. Suspense and a fast-moving plot enhance this tale set in the Hawaiian Islands.

—Jo Ann Vicarel

Product Details

Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:
Storm Kayama Series
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Pleasing the Dead

By Deborah Turrell Atkinson

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2009 Deborah Turrell Atkinson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59058-597-9

Chapter One

The silver Lexus turned left at the light, then glided a few blocks down Waine'e Street and slowed. It bumped into a pitted lot behind a small frame building. Though the bar looked closed and forlorn from the rear, a handful of dilapidated cars were parked on the worn gravel. A black Mercedes S600, isolated in the far corner, stood out like a tank at a peace demonstration.

The young man at the wheel of the Lexus gulped, and his eyes flicked to his father. Ichiru Tagama kept his gaze straight ahead, but a muscle twitched along his jaw.

Ryan Tagama parked the Lexus on the other side of the lot from the Mercedes. "I thought we were early."

The older Tagama grunted. Both men got out of the car, Ryan locked it with the remote, and adjusted the hang of his linen jacket. Tagama's broad face glistened and the tic in his jaw muscle pulsed.

Inside, father and son paused to let their eyes adapt to the dimly lit room, where a handful of male customers sat at small tables. Though Ryan watched to see if anyone noticed their entry, the customers' reddened eyes followed only the attractive, heavily made-up hostesses. Ryan watched to see if anyone noticed their entry, but the men only had eyes for the women.

There were more women than men, in assorted stages of dress. One wore a Chanel suit with a silk peony pinned to the lapel. Nearby, a very young woman wore a sheer pareau over a thong bikini in a vivid tropical print. She was less than five feet tall, with a couple of water balloons barely restrained by two tiny triangles, on her chest. Still another wore a short pleated plaid skirt, knee socks, and high heeled pumps. No one but the women smiled, and only when they faced a customer to set his drink on the table with a little curtsy or bow.

Chanel's perfect coiffure swiveled to the men coming through the door, and her mouth turned up in a smile that reached her smoky almond eyes a second or two after her red lips parted. "Tagama-san," she said in a husky voice. "Welcome."

"Yasuko, flower of Asia," Tagama said in his accented English.

"It's so good to see you again." Her sultry, warm gaze turned to Ryan. "And this is your handsome son."

"Yasuko, this is Ryan."

She gave a little bow, which Ryan returned. He bent deeper than she had.

"Come with me." She turned to lead them through a curtain of plastic beads and a blast of cold air from an overhead vent.

Ryan ducked his head and smoothed his hair. Tagama walked through the refrigerated air and the beads with the dignity of an old soldier. They entered a simple room that was unfurnished except for a table, two chairs, and a cluster of pachinko machines in the corner.

A tanned, beefy man dwarfed the table where he sat alone. Sunglasses hid his eyes. Two younger, brawny men, also wearing dark glasses, stood behind their boss.

The seated man wore an expensive Italian suit with a slight sheen, as if silk were mixed with the fine wool. He rolled his broad shoulders and nodded to his guests.

"Welcome, Tagama." The dark glasses flickered at the woman. "Thank you, Yasuko."

She backed from the room. Tagama bowed deeply. "Obakesan," Tagama said. "This is my son, Ryan."

Ryan took his cue and bowed. The man lowered his oversized head a fraction of an inch. His big hands spread flat on the table, three and a half fingers on each hand. The ends of both pinkies were missing.

"Thank you for coming." Obake pointed at the other chair. His dark lenses reflected a distortion of Tagama.

Tagama sat. "How is your health, Obake-san?"

"Good, thank you. The ocean keeps me fit. I swim a mile each morning, and again before the sun sets."

Ryan took a place behind his father in the manner of Obake's bodyguards. The elder Tagama spoke to his son. "Obake-san is a skilled swimmer and diver."

Ryan bowed again. "We would be honored to take you on a tour."

Obake didn't answer the young man, and with his eyes on the elder Tagama, waved his guards away. Tagama did not ask Ryan to leave and after a brief pause, Obake acted as if he and the older Tagama were the only people in the room.

Ryan watched the muscles around his father's eyes tighten, a reaction he doubted anyone else would notice. As a boy, it was a trait for which he'd learned to be on the lookout.

During the drive over, his father had shared information about this meeting. The few moments of candor were unusual, and Ryan was both flattered and unsettled by it. First, Tagama had told him that Obake would use an interpreter. Second, he'd revealed that Obake, who was a Japanese national, came to the U.S. several times a year, but supervised his financial empire from his home in Tokyo, and used an intermediary to carry out his negotiations. Tagama had been his agent on a few occasions, but he hadn't been a member of Obake's stable for several years.

Though Tagama never bragged, something in his voice told Ryan this hadn't been Obake's decision. Tagama did share that he was never certain about Obake's long term word, and he always made it his business to know what the Yakuza chief was up to in the islands. Secrets were more precious than diamonds when one dealt with Obake.

Ryan, chastened by Obake's snub, studied the face of the swarthy foreigner.

"We have a problem." Obake addressed Tagama in heavily accented English.

"I heard Tom Peters died in the explosion," said Tagama.

"I was the target." Obake took a long pull on his Marlboro.

Tagama squinted at the smoke. "No one knows you're here."

"Someone knew."

"Peters has enemies. I can think of several people who would like him to disappear."

"No." Obake slapped the surface of the table and the ashtray jumped. Tagama sat like a boulder, though Ryan twitched.

"They want me."

Ryan saw his father blink at this news, though he didn't speak.

"I only survive because I leave meeting early." Obake paused a moment, as if making a decision. "I get a warning."

"When?" Tagama asked.

"This morning, in Japan. Noboru sent a text message."

Tagama raised an eyebrow. Noboru was Obake's personal secretary, a man whose extensive tattoos proclaimed his loyalty to Obake and the businessman's clan.

Tagama took a deep breath and looked down at his folded hands. "May I ask what the message said?"

"It said, 'ikimasu.'"

"'I'm coming?' One person?"

Obake nodded. "Not a native speaker, but it is someone who knows my business. He knew to contact Noboru, after all."

Tagama sat quietly for several seconds. "I will need a list of your business contacts."

"This is not a time to be devious. You know them." Obake removed his dark glasses and stared atTagama, his murky brown eyes stones in the tanned mask of his face. "Find the leak, Tagama." Fine da reek, Tagama.

Neither the older Tagama nor Ryan found the butchered words amusing.

Chapter Two

Storm Kayama looked at the sticky linoleum floor of the car rental shack and remembered the legend of Mui, the Hawaiian god and mischief maker, and how he'd lassoed the sun to nourish the land. Right then, she thought he'd overdone it. It was way too hot for a Wednesday in April. It didn't help that the Kahulului car rental office was packed and the air conditioning broken. In the stillness, no relief came through the propped-open doors.

Ahead of Storm in line, two parents and three of their children sagged against the rental counter and complained to the very young and very pregnant clerk. The fourth, a droopy-diapered tyke of about two sauntered up and down the line, scrutinizing the overheated customers with black eyes that dared anyone to meet them. Most people stared ahead, but Storm grinned at the kid, and wondered if it was a boy or a girl.

"Lexie," barked the mother, who turned from the counter. The woman's face glowed with heat and exasperation.

Lexie ignored her mom and stopped next to Storm. Was Lexie a girl's name or a boy's? In one hand, a paper cone of melting shave ice dripped virulent pink liquid onto the kid's toes. Ant battalions queued up across the grubby linoleum.

Storm broke eye contact with the toddler and shoved back damp, wavy strands of dark hair that had sprung free of her French braid. Everyone in line drooped with heat, and Lexie's feet made sucky sounds in the growing pink puddle. Ants, single-minded in their mission, outlined the nectar like someone had used a black pen.

The pregnant clerk, whose belly pulled the flowers on her company mu'umu'u into amorphous blobs, had been explaining something to the family in a low voice, but now her whisper carried. "... are all blocked, anyway." Everyone in line leaned forward.

"Eh? The roads are blocked?" asked a man in front of Storm.

"That's what they're saying," said the clerk.

"All of them?" asked someone behind Storm.

"That's what I hear." The pregnant girl fanned herself with a rental contract.

"What happened?" Storm asked. From a couple miles away, the whine of sirens carried on the still air.

"I'm not sure—" the girl began, but the staccato snap of leather heels distracted her. Her eyes flitted to the door, and she ruffled through a stack of contracts resting on the countertop.

A woman in a navy suit and matching navy mid-heeled pumps marched up to the clerk. Four men, dressed in the masculine version of her outfit, followed. All of them wore Ray Bans. Their heels tapped their significance to the peons in line.

Lexie watched, mouth agape. Everyone in line bristled. The pregnant clerk fumbled a pile of keys and the waiting papers into the suited woman's outstretched hands. The suit veered away, with the four men following behind like imprinted ducklings.

The line of homogenous agents reminded Storm of the ants, except crisis was the agents' puddle of nirvana. And that meant there was a mountain of misery out there for someone. Without realizing it, Storm touched the emerald-eyed pig that hung on a gold chain on her neck. He was her 'aumakua, or family totem, and Aunt Maile had given it to her for luck a few years ago.

One by one, the customers got their cars. The family obtained the van they needed. The mom scooped Lexie up and jammed a flowered pink elastic headband on her shining scalp. Lexie howled.

The man in front of Storm asked about the blocked roads. Now that the Feds had come and gone, the pregnant clerk was happy to chat. "An explosion in Kahului. Madelyn—you know—the sales manager over at Avis, said someone died. Might be a terrorist attack."

"Who were the suits?" Storm asked when she got to the counter.

"A federal task force."

"Makes sense if they're worried about terrorism."

"It's scary, isn't it?" The young woman didn't sound scared. "Row three, stall eleven. Good luck."

It only took two blocks for Storm to realize that she'd need that luck. No one was going anywhere fast. It was after five, rush hour, and cars were lined up as far as she could see.

Up to now, she'd been looking forward to the trip. She had a handful of paying clients on Maui, which was a gorgeous place to visit. The most intriguing was a job incorporating and overseeing liability issues regarding a new dive shop. The owner, a minor celebrity, had called out of the blue because a friend of a friend had recommended Storm's services. Word of mouth was a strong persuader in the islands.

Lara Farrell's name had sounded familiar to Storm, and the minute she'd hung up the phone with her new client, Storm Googled her. Sure enough, six or seven years ago, Lara made a name for herself in the windsurfing world. Maui's north shore beaches were among the world's most ideal sites, and Lara had been an internationally known competitor. She stopped suddenly five years ago, and though Storm spent almost two hours on the Internet (how did it gobble so much time?), she couldn't figure out why Lara had quit. She did find a reference to Lara's temper, however. Not enough to scare Storm off; temperamental people were more apt to annoy Storm than scare her.

She flipped through radio stations, searching for a news report that would explain the traffic jam. An explosion had occurred in a restaurant that morning, and streets were still jammed. Probably not an international terrorist, Storm thought, but crazy people are everywhere.

A tickling sensation bothered the back of her head, and Storm looked around at the other idling cars. Funny, she felt like she was being watched. But who could locate anyone in the parking lot that would normally be Dairy Road? There was a street cop, red-faced and sweating in his dark hat, uniform, and white gloves, a handful of pedestrians, and one brave or stupid bicyclist, who talked on his cell phone as he wove between cars.

Ahead of her, a child stared from the back window of a van. It was Lexie, who raised both hands to the window. Storm waved. Lexie frowned, then sat down. The feeling of being watched abated.

Storm sighed with exasperation, and crawled ahead. She hoped the car didn't overheat. There was no way she was going to make her dinner date with her new client. Not even close.

* * *

Sergeant Carl Moana, Maui PD, didn't flinch at the blaring horns. His face a ruddy mask, he stood his ground in the middle of the intersection at Dairy Road and Hana Highway. Ignoring the sweat trickling across his burning scalp, he kept one gloved palm toward Hana Highway and waved the other like a metronome at the endless procession of heat-radiating, fuming vehicles that crept toward him.

His brain, however, raced like the engines that revved in frustration. Why were the police blocking all the streets leading into town? Every citizen in Wailuku and Kahului combined, all thirty thousand of them, seemed to be on the road. His nine-year-old could roller blade faster than these cars were moving. These people just wanted to get home for dinner. Plus, the top of his navy blue cap felt like a steam iron sat on it.

He was blocks from the explosion, which took out the side of the Blue Marine, a restaurant that was usually only open evenings for fine dining. Odd that they'd been serving breakfast, and certainly not to the general public. But he knew one thing: the worse the problem, the tighter the lid on the matter. There hadn't been a press release yet, and people were clamoring for news. As a result, the coconut wireless hummed. At least one person had died, maybe two. Word on the street had it that the dead guy was a contact for the Yakuza. He was also a member of the Maui Department of Liquor Control.

Moana knew better than to take gossip at face value. Someone else said that ATF, FBI, and representatives from the U.S. Attorney's office were on the way from Honolulu. His mouth twitched with that thought. Good luck if they were driving from the airport.

Sweat coursed down the side of Moana's face. But it wasn't just the navy blue uniform that cranked up the heat. Though Moana had trained for explosions, he'd never had to deal with one.

Just last week, his wife had sewn the third stripe on his sleeve, and they'd put their three kids to bed, drunk Korbel from jelly glasses, laughed, and made love. He'd studied hard for the sergeant's exam. And he wanted to work on this new crisis, but knew he had no connections. He had no relatives on the force or uncles in government. Kahului wasn't even his regular patrol district. Working overtime directing traffic was as close as he was going to get to this emergency. Especially since the federal heavies were on the way.

And what if the rumors of terrorism were accurate? It was a damn scary thought. Here on quiet, friendly Maui? What was going on?

Despite his apprehension, Carl wanted to make a difference in his community. And he wanted his kids to go to college someday. He needed to be noticed; he needed to be on the inside of a big case.

* * *

The boss had been right, as usual. A bicycle was the way to go in this situation. The man sailed between the stalling, steaming cars. People were going to be steamed, too. He had what he'd come for; it was time to move out of this mess.

His mobile phone rang, and he dug it out of his shorts pocket. "She's here. Avis rental, white Chrysler Sebring, license MBW 9453. She's stuck along with the rest of these slobs."


Excerpted from Pleasing the Dead by Deborah Turrell Atkinson Copyright © 2009 by Deborah Turrell Atkinson. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Deborah Turrell Atkinson lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, with her husband and two children. A zest for traveling off the beaten path, friends, and her deep interest in the native myths and lore that abound among Hawaii’s rich and varied cultures contribute to her books.

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Pleasing the Dead 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
MaryBethWrites More than 1 year ago
Paradise isn't always perfect for attorney Storm Kayama. She has a habit of attracting murder and mayhem, no matter which island she visits. In "Pleasing the Dead," she runs afoul of powerful Japanese mobsters, a temper tantrum-prone client and mysterious relationships that threaten lives all up and down the social strata. Author Deborah Turrell Atkinson brings the Hawaiian Islands to vibrant life in this latest entry in the Kayama chronicles. Set on Maui, the book takes us behind the tourist scenes and into the small towns and neighborhoods of the island. We meet grocers and contractors as well as the police officers. A number of Hawaiian foods appear throughout the story as well, whetting the reader's appetite. (I'm definitely ready to try the shave ice with hidden ice cream and azuki bean she describes on page 222.) Kayama is a strong protagonist. Atkinson gives her a distinct personality that is fresh yet familiar at the same time. She could be your chum from high school or your next door neighbor. Her heart is for people, as evidenced by her mission to bring the little girl, Carmen, a favorite stuffed cat that was left behind when the paramedics brought her to the hospital. At the same time, she fiercely stands up to people who mean harm to those who are important to her. The large cast of fascinating supporting characters requires attention from the reader. Many of the names are of Japanese origin. The typical reader will be able to keep them straight with a minimum of effort. You'll hate some and love others, but you will be intrigued by the interplay between them in this tense story. The threads of Atkinson's plot weave through the story like tendrils of some exotic vine. Relationships and past histories converge and digress, but the end result is an entrancing story rich with Hawaiian lore and language. There is some rough language (the reason I gave it 4 rather than 5), but a great read. If the weather has you wishing for a warm vacation, get "Pleasing the Dead." It's a great escape to Hawaii, a lot less expensive than air fare and no security checkpoints to face.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Attorney Storm Kayama travels to Kahului, Maui to discuss with her client Lara Farrell the legal aspects of opening up a dive shop. Soon after she arrives in Kahului, she hears a loud explosion that occurred in a nearby restaurant.

Visiting the under construction dive shop, Storm observes a foreman council a drunken Japanese laborer for breaking the rule of not working under the influence as one can be a danger to one¿s self and others. Soon after receiving the verbal reprimand, the worker Hiroki commits an apparent murder-suicide killing one of his two daughters. Unable to resist Storm investigates what drove the man to kill himself and his child starting with the still powerful ancient ¿coconut wireless¿ communication system, in which the gossip ties Hiroki to the Yakuza Japanese mob.

The keys to the exciting Kayama tales (see THE GREEN ROOM, PRIMITIVE SECRETS, and FIRE PRAYER) are the deep look into Native Hawaiian mythology and the hidden from tourists underside of paradise. The story line is fast-paced, starting off as a legal thriller, but as with the previous Stormy stories quickly turns into a dangerous investigative tale. Fans will enjoy tour guide Deborah Turrell Atkinson¿s exciting Hawaii Paradise adventures.

Harriet Klausner