The US Review of Books
"…it had seemed like life was finally moving away from deadly matters."
If life is what happens when you’re making other plans, then in a cozy mystery, murder is what happens when you’re making life. Such is the way of things for Natalie Seachrist who, in her second outing in this series, is at a relatively happy crossroads—moving in with her boyfriend Keoni and relaxing into a warm and welcoming community—until murder interrupts the peaceful idyll.
Shocked by the death of a new friend and deeply troubled by psychic dreams that may have foreshadowed and revealed details about the murder, Natalie and her close-knit community of colorful characters are rocked by the jarring homicide and desperate for answers. Life gets further complicated when a face from Natalie’s past arrives to solve the case, making for a crowded and potentially awkward situation just when Natalie and Keoni were set to enjoy this new stage in their relationship.
This author knows her genre, and she skillfully blends familiar ingredients that faithful cozy mystery readers will appreciate. The story is further enhanced with several compelling flourishes. First, the author draws on the rich history of Denmark’s safe evacuation of its Jewish population during World War II and integrates this legacy into her 21st-century characters. Next, while cozy sleuths are often known for their intuition, Natalie’s dreams are downright prescient, bringing a mystical quality to the crime-solving activities. Finally, the book’s love affair with its Hawaiian setting is contagious, and the location details create an alluring atmosphere. All these added components bring depth and freshness to a familiar format. If the mystery itself fails to hold the reader at seat’s edge for the final reveal, the book creates sufficient curiosity that, when paired with the friendly cast and creative touches, the novel makes a pleasant and satisfying diversion for a cozy afternoon.
A semiretired journalist in Hawaii who experiences visions tries to solve a neighbor’s murder in this second installment
of a mystery series.
No longer constantly overseas as a travel writer, Natalie Seachrist has more time to spend at home in Hawaii. She’s preparing to
leave her Waikiki condo but decides to stay at her aunt’s cottage in Lanikai. With help from her boyfriend, Keoni Hewitt, and her
twin brother, Nathan Harriman, Natalie gets settled at the cottage and mingles with neighbors. But before long, she has a vision.
Her sepia-toned visions often show her an event during or before its occurrence. This time, she sees a concealed man murder one of
her new neighbors, but Natalie convinces herself it was nothing more than a nightmare. She unfortunately learns the next morning
that the same woman from her vision has mysteriously died. Luckily, Lt. John Dias, the old partner of former homicide detective
Keoni, is on the case. John, whose grandmother had a gift akin to Natalie’s, willingly listens to her breakdown of the vision.
Putting together the skills of John and Natalie, who’s an exceptional researcher, the two hope to prevent one particular individual
from getting away with murder. The most striking feature of Burrows-Johnson’s (Prospect for Murder, 2016) book is a winsomely detailed
setting, from seafood and Kona coffee to Hawaii’s generally relaxed ambiance (including a hammock on the lanai). As such, the story’s
mystery is simply another task for Natalie, along with moving to Lanikai and planning Keoni’s surprise birthday party. Nevertheless,
the protagonist is first-rate. Natalie, for example, despite using her visions as an investigative tool, produces a significant break
in the case with mere deductive reasoning. Her special ability does factor into the probe, but she would have made headway on smarts
alone. The plot offers a couple of impressive twists, and though some of the case unfolds outside of Natalie’s first-person narration,
the protagonist sees it through to the end.
A diverting tale led by a smashing amateur detective whose dexterity far exceeds her paranormal gift.
Manhattan Book Review
Natalie Seachrist has had a vision in the night of a Jewish child fleeing Denmark to Sweden with her family during WWII. But Natalie has no idea who this child could be or why she’s had this particular vision. Though she is sure the reason for the vision will become clear at some point. Instead of dwelling on it, she turns her attention to moving house. With the death of her aunt Carrie, she has inherited White Sand Cottage, in Lanikai near Kailua on the windward side of Oahu in Hawaii, and she has to clear out her condo in Waikiki. Her boyfriend, Keoni, is there to help not just with the move but with the renovations at the cottage as well.
As they settle into the cottage, they get to know their neighbors and all seems picturesque and idyllic until one of the neighbors, Miriam Didion, is murdered. Natalie and Keoni, a retired police officer, are determined to help find the murderer before he or she can strike again.
Initially, it was the gorgeous cover that drew me to this book. I loved the sunset view and the fact that the story was set in Hawaii made it all the more interesting. I liked the character of Natalie and I felt that as a narrator she was able to create quite an intimate setting. It felt like she was talking to me personally from the comfort of the cottage. I don’t often get this warm and cozy atmosphere in mystery stories, so I appreciated this aspect of the book.
Overall, I was impressed by the character development in the book. I felt that I got to know everyone rather well. The use of Hawaiian words and explanations was also a very nice touch, making me feel that I was part of the local culture. It also made the setting seem more realistic. I enjoyed the ending and was intrigued to find out a little more about Miriam and how the story tied back to the beginning of the book. I also liked that just because Miriam and “her ladies” were retired and older, it didn’t mean they weren’t lively and active. It’s nice to read about characters of all ages, and this book had the young and the old. The story had many layers as well as some twists and turns, which kept me glued to the pages, particularly the story of Samantha and Luke.
I’m excited to discover a new mystery writer, and I’m hoping there will be more cases for Natalie, Keoni, and Miss Una to solve in the not-too-distant future.
Seattle Book Review
Murder on Mokulua Drive is the second book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery series. Natalie is making a change in her life, moving to the Lanikai cottage with her boyfriend Keoni Hewitt after grieving the loss of two family members. Visions of a girl escaping on a boat during World War II spark the beginning of a chain of events that take a shocking turn. When she has a vision of a man in scuba gear murdering a woman, she doesn’t expect it to hit so close to home. After Natalie receives a tragic phone call from next door, she and Keoni are pulled into a murder investigation led by Keoni’s former partner, Honolulu Police Detective John Dias.
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson dives into the paradise of Hawai’i with a murder mystery, strong characters, and a captivating premise tying back to World War II. Natalie has a relatively quiet life and when not investigating murders, or experiencing visions of murders, it’s fairly ordinary and peaceful. Her relationship with Keoni reflects this paradise setting, as their romance is adorably perfect. They work together as partners investigating murders as well as being a confidante and ally to each other. Their strong bond is idealistic and maintains a lightness to the story that’s sweet and bubbly. The cottage they move into plays an important part in the story, as Natalie moves there after leaving her apartment, which connected her to her aunt and niece. This move gives her closure from the deaths of her aunt and niece, as she’s able to put her past behind her, not to forget but to move forward. The cottage provides a second chance and a fresh start for both Keoni and Natalie as they settle in together.
Natalie’s visions give a supernatural touch to the story, but Burrows-Johnson presents them in a way that feels grounded. She uses her visions in the form of a witness statement to help John investigate the murder. John is a close friend to Keoni, but he’s also a serious cop who fully respects and appreciates her visions as fact. These visions are what first connect her to Miriam’s past while also giving her the unfortunate experience of being in the moment of the murder through a vision, but it’s Miriam’s childhood trying to escape via a boat back in War World II that acts as a driving force for much of the plot. This moment is also the spark that led Miriam on the path to becoming who she became. Each of the characters has a strong emotional tie to Miriam, so even after death, she has a deep connection to the story while maintaining a real presence throughout, and in a way guides Natalie through the mystery. Natalie gets to know her through her journals, which unfold how she fell in love and came to help other women, giving her a well-rounded development even if it’s done in a spiritual way.
Burrows-Johnson fills Murder on Mokulu Drive with strong female relationships as these incredible women work together to help and provide shelter for women in bad situations. Miriam and her housemates are strong and brave women who quickly bond with Natalie and create this warm environment that even murder can’t break, just unsettle. Burrows-Johnson has an array of interesting characters, as Natalie is surrounded by a close group of friends, which her neighbors quickly factor into, that creates a real sense of community and family. Even Natalie’s cat plays a role in the story as a prominent member of the family and a watchful protector of sorts for the characters. She’s often seen keeping an eye through the window on the house next door and providing doses of comfort by curling up on the bed with the characters. The mystery itself is tragic and full of twists as Natalie and Keoni work to protect someone they care about and end up falling into the crosshairs of someone dangerous, but the mystery is mostly resolved by the end as the characters come together to honor Miriam’s death. A murder mystery in paradise, Murder on Mokulua Drive is full of heart, sweet romance, and a deep sense of family with layered characters, strong female relationships, and the scenic setting of Hawai’i.