Is there any better feeling than discovering a new favorite author? For an avid reader, the answer is no. It’s what I experienced in reading BLOOD ORCHIDS by Toby Neal. My toes were tingling, my brain was a’buzzing and my endorphins were doing a cray-cray crazy dance and making me high while I was turning the pages! Are there things I appreciate more than someone than can turn a phrase and create their own universe? I don’t know, but a skilled author is right up there on the top of my list. Above that list, sits Ms. Neal.
BLOOD ORCHIDS is a little miracle of a book. It completely satisfied the mystery-loving hound in me, and gave me a heroine to love and cherish for many books to come. Leilani Texeria is her name and Ms. Neal does an exquisite job of revealing all the disparate sides of her personality. Professional, hard-headed, loving, tough and impulsive, she’s all of those and a bag of chips carried by the little girl Lei once was before she became broken. I love when an author can show us a character’s vulnerability, and in BLOOD ORCHIDS, it’s revealed with a master’s touch. Each time Lei disassociates when confronting a difficult situation, we want to reach out and tell her it’s alright. That’s how vested we become in this very complex character.
The story is set in the lush location of Hawaii, but this tropical paradise has nothing to do with the horrific crimes going on; it’s merely a silent witness to it all. At the outset, we’re confronted with two dead bodies floating in the water. Lei recognizes one of the girls and her intuition is set into gear—she feels connected to the case and plots a way to be a part of the investigation. Thank goodness for us that she does for she meets up with the lead detective Michael Stevens. A hottie transplanted from LA, we become enmeshed in their relationship that is in constant danger of crossing the line of professionalism. But things like dating are not so simple for this island girl. A man called Charlie Kwon took her innocence away and the rash of rape/murders stir up the ashes of a childhood molestation. Then there are the notes she’s receiving. Is it a stalker, or are the two cases really one? As the danger heats up, so does the fear that something will happen to the girl we want so much to succeed.
It’s an absolute joy reading through this story. The words flow, the action is mesmerizing and there’s not a false note struck in the book. I’d also like to say a little something about the Hawaiian Pidgin dialect peppering some of the text. To my ear, it’s a streamlined more basic way to express things. It’s an important detail. While the mind can appreciate the complex, it’s simplicity that the heart accepts. It’s yet another reason that we embrace Lei so strongly. There are no fancy words to obfuscate who and what she is—and it’s this fragility that we embrace and love. The quotes she has lining her walls at home reinforce this aspect and really make her accessible in a very personal way.
Kudos to Ms. Neal for the exquisite job done on this book. I really can’t rave enough about it. I haven’t had this good a time reading a book in quite a while. My eyes were glued to the pages and I stayed up much too late in an attempt to find out what happens to Lei. All I can say is that it was time well-spent and not wasted. This haole gives one hundred stars to BLOOD ORCHIDS … or maybe a galaxy! I highly recommend you give yourself a treat by indulging in this sensational thriller.