Fifty Candles (Expanded Edition) by Earl Derr Biggers
Fifty Candles -- first published just two years after a 1919 vacation in Hawaii -- shows how Hawaii, China, and murder had already begun to come together in Biggers' imagination; eventually he would create the character Charlie Chan.
The story starts in a courthouse in Honolulu, moves to China, then to fog-shrouded San Francisco. Many of the elements used in the Charlie Chan series are present: Chinese characters (both sinister and sympathetic), the Honolulu legal system, a shrewd detective (in this case, the lawyer Mark Drew rather than a policemen), and a baffling murder complete with red herrings and plenty of suspects.
Although "Fifty Candles" is a murder mystery, it is also a romance, with the romantic elements at times in the forefront. Mostly, though, it is a book that will delight Biggers' many fans as they trace the origins of Charlie Chan.
This special expanded edition includes John Betancourt's introduction from the 2001 paperback edition, plus a bonus short story, "The Way to the Island" -- a long-lost tale!