Book Review: Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw is the second book in the Koa Kane Mystery series—set in Hilo, Hawaii—where an elementary school inexplicably built on top of an active volcano explodes and the chief detective must connect the dots to ensure justice is served for the victims. 

Hawaii may be part of the United States, but its physical and historical distance from the continental U.S. practically makes it a foreign country. This is the playing field that Hawaii Chief Detective Koa Kane must navigate in Fire and Vengeance.

This second installment in the Koa Kane Mystery series begins with a heartbreaking event that would move anyone to want both justice and vengeance. An elementary school on the island explodes, and Koa is one of the many first responders there to try and salvage as many lives as possible. Even with the quick response of the authorities and locals, 14 young children and four teachers lose their lives in the tragic explosion and subsequent fire.

Local and national media flock to the scene, and evidence reveals that the school had been built over a volcanic vent that erupted. This begs the question: who, if anyone, knew about this? Further inspection shows that concrete had first been poured into the volcanic vent and then the school built on top of that, which indicates that at least the builder knew and tried to hide the fact. Now, the builder—a man named Boyle—is public enemy #1, but it most likely did not begin and end with him.

When Koa and a trusted deputy go to speak with Boyle, they find him hanging, allegedly the victim of suicide. However, the medical examiner’s report claims Boyle was murdered first and then hanged. Koa must now race to stay one step ahead of a killer who appears to be taking out anyone who knows the truth before they can reveal important information about who else may have been involved. Koa makes a promise that he will chase down every individual involved in this conspiracy.

In the meantime, Koa is also battling a serious family issue that is weighing him down emotionally. His brother, Ikaika, is in the local penitentiary doing time for his part in a child pornography ring. He has been diagnosed with two serious frontal-lobe brain tumors, leaving Koa and his sister to deal with neurologists and surgical experts to try and save his life. Koa tries his best to keep his family situation from his superiors, but important people—people also involved in the school tragedy—already know about his brother, culminating in an impossibly difficult decision for the detective: family or justice.

I confess this is my first foray with Robert McCaw and his terrific Koa Kane character. While McCaw doesn’t spare the Hawaiian language and lingo—it can be a bit distracting, at times—Fire and Vengeance is a treat as well as a learning experience about a different culture. The time spent immersed in the Hawaiian way of life ended up being well worth it, and the culture was practically another character in the story. Fire and Vengeance is hard to put down once things started rolling, and the result is an immensely satisfying thriller.

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