Diamond Head ? A John Caine Mystery
Dead Letter Mystery
St. Martin?s Press 1998
Paperback 234 pages
If you liked the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald, you are going to enjoy the short lived (4 books) but pretty good John Caine series by Charles Knief. Diamond Head, the first John Caine mystery, won the St Martin's Press best 1st privatge eye novel in 1996. Granted, former Navy Seal John Caine is a little superheroic but all in all this series is entertaining.
The John Caine Travis McGee connection is both men live on a boat in a harbor, both only work when they need money or someone needs a favor, and both are philosophers of sorts. Caine has no Meyer however. Diamond Head like the other Charles Knief mystery novels is set in Hawaii. In his first outing, former Navy Seal and multi-talented detective John Caine is asked to look into the murder of an old friend's daughter, an admiral with political aims. He is to find out what happened, right the wrong, and make the cause of the daughter's death disappear so it will not harm the admiral's political aspirations.
One of the keys to a successful mystery novel is location, location, location. Here, it is Hawaii and Knief's knowledge of places few tourists go to, of the locals and their secrets, adds a lot to the John Caine series.
Another key is any good detective must have an in with the cops so as to get files, plate numbers, and so on. Here, Caine's in is an old Chinese entrepreneur named Chawlie. Chawlie is the weak element in the series as he is the stereotypical inscrutable old Chinese guy with many underground connections; that his speech is right out of an old Charlie Chan movie is a little distracting.
The bad guy in Diamond Head is big enough to cause John Caine trouble and the secret Caine must bury about the admiral's daughter dark enough to make this thriller interesting.
Still, Diamond Head and the first few books in the John Caine mystery series by Charles Knief are a good read. Not hardcover, keep it on the shelf style good read, mind you, more paperback get back to it in a few years or lend it to someone else kind of book.