Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Menehune Murders: Review

The Menehune Murders is the seventh book in Margot Arnold's mystery series which features American anthropologist, Penny Spring, and British archaeologist, Sir Toby Glendower. This adventure finds the duo headed for the Hawaiian islands for a vacation. Of course, no vacation is truly restful for Penny and Sir Toby, and this is no exception. The widower of one of Penny's friends has asked the renowned anthropologist to mediate a dispute between himself and another member of the University of Hawaii's faculty. Giles Shaw, a stereotypical wild Irishman if there ever was one, has lately made claims to proof of the fabled Menehunes--legendary Polynesian "little people" not unlike the leprechauns of Ireland. 

While most of Shaw's colleagues sensibly ignored him and let him go his way, Helmut Freyer responded with scathing criticism. This spurred Shaw to even more extravagant claims which he committed to paper in a book. The rivalry grew and the press made much of it--until finally Penny was called up to help settle the dispute. Penny drags Toby (grumbling about another interrupted vacation) to the meeting spot, an isolated, god-forsaken area which is supposed to work into Polynesian legend, to find no trace of Shaw and the dead body of Freyer. 

He was stretched out on the ground, his arms neatly at his sides, face up, eyes closed, and but for a grimace that twisted the flaccid mouth looked as if he were quietly napping. [But...] On the bare skin [of his right leg] was a purplish patch and a small scratch from which ran a trickle of blood, that pointed like an arrow to something that glittered dully in the sunlight: it was a tiny, finely-flaked spearpoint of obsidian attached to a small shaft of polished wood.

Freyer has been poisoned by what looks like a miniature spear --as if the legendary Menehune have risen against him and struck him down.

Of course, the Hawaiian police immediately decide that Shaw must be the guilty party. Because every bright person who decides to turn murderer definitely leaves big clues that says "Hey, guys, it was ME!" Penny thinks Giles is a bit thick when it comes to interpersonal relationships, but can't believe he'd hang out a Menehune sign that would indicate that he is the culprit. She insists that she must get to the bottom of Freyer's murder with or without Toby's help. Toby--knowing Penny's penchant for getting herself into dangerous situations--reluctantly pitches in. They soon discover that more people were interested in the Menehune dispute than first met the eye--for reasons of greed rather than anthropological or archaeological glory.

Arnold is, as usual, very adept at her descriptions of place. For those of us who have never been to Hawaii, it is very easy to visualize the places Penny and Toby visit in their efforts to untangle the mystery. The beauty of the Hawaiian islands and the waters surrounding them come alive. This particular outing is also a better-clued mystery than some of her previous novels. Quite often Sir Toby holds clues close to his chest in Holmes-fashion rather than vintage fair play. Readers of The Menehune Murders have a fair chance to discover the villain before the final chapter. Over all, an entertaining read with the standard Arnold grand finale with a last-minute helicopter rescue--this time it's Toby in danger and Penny flies in with the rescue team just in the nick of time. ★★★★

[Finished on 9/16/17]
This fulfills the "Any Other Weapon" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

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