Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ONE MAN'S PARADISE - Douglas Corleone

First Line: "They pawed at each other against the black backdrop of night, the restless Pacific waters purring at their feet."

New York attorney Kevin Corvelli made a mess of a high profile murder case that landed his client in jail. Amidst the humiliation of the loss, Kevin receives a phone call informing him the client was killed. And if things couldn't get any worse, his innocence is unveiled after he is killed. Kevin cared more about how he looked on camera than whether or not his client had actually been guilty, but the trauma of the case and the negative publicity send Kevin reeling all the way to Hawaii. He's looking to escape and start new, but he vows no more felony cases, no more high-profile cases. And he's certain he's found just the place he can keep his head down and make enough money to get by: sharing an office with Jake Harper. It was the perfect place, that is, until Jake Harper snowballed Kevin into the high-profile murder case, defending law student Joseph Gianforte. And that's only the beginning of the surprises for Kevin Corvelli. Welcome to Hawaii, Kevin.

ONE MAN'S PARADISE is Douglas Corleone's debut novel and he has a winner out of the gate. ONE MAN'S PARADISE is filled with eclectic characters, witty dialogue, and unexpected events in the Hawaiian Islands. Corleone sprinkles Hawaiian terms throughout the novel to augment the setting. But that also works to reinforce the protagonist's acclimation to his new home.

Corleone does an exceptional job of creating a cocky young man deeply scarred by his previous experience. Kevin doesn't become a cowering chicken, afraid of his own shadow. He retains a lot of his aggressive nature and attitude, but now he's a bit more gun shy, a little less sure of himself, and completely believable.

The supporting characters in this novel are superb. I enjoyed Jake but absolutely loved Flan, Kevin's unlicensed investigator. Flan is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of character. His rough edges make him an endearing sort. Also adding richness to the plot are Kevin's other clients, the gang members.

Corleone opted to narrate ONE MAN'S PARADISE in first person present. While some are critical of this point of view, Corleone uses it well and to his advantage with the suspense.

Corleone's humor is the final layer of fun in ONE MAN'S PARADISE. Since the narrative is told in Kevin's voice he's expressing disbelief at a new culture, he's mocking himself, he's noticing the absurd in everyday life. A scene I found especially entertaining was Kevin's efforts to kayak for the first time. It wasn't quite what he expected:
"In the midst of my great struggle, I am passed by a giant native sea turtle, half the size of my kayak, gliding effortlessly toward the Mokulua isles. I remember seeing a sign somewhere prohibiting riding these animals, and only now can I see how the temptation can arise."
ONE MAN'S PARADISE won the MWA/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Award and it was certainly deserving. This is an entertaining debut to what I hope will be a great new series in crime fiction.

ONE MAN'S PARADISE is available from St. Martin's Minotaur in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-312-61158-3).

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Kay September 28, 2010 at 8:28 AM  

I'm definitely looking forward to finding this book and reading it, Jen. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Naomi Johnson September 28, 2010 at 4:32 PM  

Hm, how did this one escape me?

Jen Forbus September 28, 2010 at 6:51 PM  

Kay, I know you're working on reading what you want, so it means a lot when you say you're looking forward to reading something! I can't wait to hear what you think about it.

Naomi, this is one of those that has been flying under the radar. I haven't heard a lot about it, but I am glad I heard and that Doug will be on my panel in San Francisco. This was a fun read!

Ed Modica September 29, 2010 at 2:10 AM  

Corleone's unique ability to couple mystery with a bit of humor makes this my favorite read ever~! He brilliantly creates a main character, who knows that his law career may be over, due to the loss of a very high profile case~! Instead of fading away, like we are led to believe in the beginning, Corvelli, the main character, becomes innocently involved in another high profile case in Hawaii, where Corvelli flees to bury his problems~!
As we follow Corvelli throughout his adventures, we feel obliged to pity this depressed soul, who once had such talent and promise in the field of law~!

stacybuckeye October 5, 2010 at 10:49 PM  

I'm always looking for a great new crime series. Thanks for the recommendation!

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