Primitive Secrets: A Storm Kayama Mystery #1

By Deborah Turrell Atkinson

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An exciting new voice richly and suspensefully evokes modern and ancient Hawaii… When Storm Kayama walks into her lucrative Honolulu law firm one morning, she’s shocked—and grieved—to find her adopted uncle at his desk, stiff and cold. Years before, Miles Hamasaki had fulfilled a promise to Storm’s father and brought her to be raised with his own family. But, as questions surround Miles’ death and her adopted family begins to close ranks, Storm suspects that he has been murdered. Heading to the Big Island for a weekend escape from escalating pressures, she narrowly escapes a terrible accident. Storm takes refuge in the home of her Aunt Maile, a traditional Hawaiian healer, and Uncle Keone, a paniolo on the huge Parker Ranch. There she encounters a legend from her youth and a family totem, or ‘aumakua, which Aunt Maile promises will protect her. As Storm struggles to heal her own childhood wounds and bring justice to Hamasaki’s killer, she also comes to grip with the rifts in her own life and culture. From the winding cane roads of Hamakua to the seedy side of Honolulu’s Chinatown, with a deft juxtaposition of a bustling Honolulu against the island’s legends and wild beauty, Atkinson reveals a Hawaii that few visitors ever see.


"Even Eden had its serpent but Storm Kayana, a native of Hawaii, doesn't expect any evil to touch her in Paradise. While waiting to see if she has passed the bar exam, Storm is working as a law clerk at her adopted uncle's law firm. One morning when she comes into work, she goes into Uncle Miles Hamasaki's office only to find him slumped over his desk, quite dead. At first she thinks he died from natural causes but too many strange things begin happening to her for her to continue to believe that fantasy. The day of his funeral, somebody makes her and tries to steal her computer. Her house is broken into and she is almost run off the road by someone who wants her dead. Some of Miles's files are missing and it's obvious an unknown assailant believes Storm has them. She decides she must find the files to see what is so damaging in them that this person would want to kill her. Deborah Turrell Atkinson shows why even the natives believe Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The culture, customs and ancient beliefs come alive in PRIMITIVE SECRETS, a crime thriller that will grab and keep reader interest. The heroine is a troubled young woman who must make peace with her past if she is to have a pleasant future. The audience will root for her every step of the way and hope she will star in future tales." --Midwest Book Review

"Deborah Turrell Atkinson smoothly blends contemporary crime and native Hawaiian legend in her second novel, Primitive Secrets. When Storm Kayama discovers her beloved adoptive attorney uncle, Miles Hamasaki, dead at his desk, her search for his killer takes her on a journey into her own painful past that illuminates the larger conflicts in the 50th state's diverse culture." --Publishers Weekly

"After the apparent heart-attack death of her adoptive father, Hawaiian lawyer Miles Hamasaki, Storm Kayama is first mugged, then robbed, then threatened. Someone desperately wants Hamasaki's briefcase, which, as Storm finds later, contains sensitive material relating to a cancer insurance case. In the end, Storm makes use of Hawaiian resources, including a traditional healer and a ranch hand, to uncover her father's killer. Legal firm insider stuff, a possible romance with a handsome new associate, adoptive family secrets, and unusual settings round out a memorable read. For larger collections." --Library Journal

"...The story moves quickly and smoothly. Atkinson's characters are well-fleshed out; they are believable people. The plot is a compelling storyline--it could happen. But the jewel of the story, to me, is the way Deborah Turrell Atkinson weaves ancient Hawaii folklore in the plot. It isn't just stuck in for color; it moves the plot along. After being nearly run off a high mountain road, Storm arrives at her Aunt Meile's house, who explains, 'That gardenia smell. You know what that mean?...It was the warning of the ancients...They were looking out for you.' Being a history lover, I would have liked to read about more folklore. But it didn't overwhelm the story, and it leaves more to be included in future books of this planned series. Primitive Secrets is an excellent first novel, and Deborak Turrell Atkinson has me hooked. I'm looking forward to her next mystery." --Mystery Scene Magazine

"Storm Kayama is shocked when she finds her adopted uncle, Miles Hamasaki, dead at his desk one morning at his Honolulu law firm. After she is mugged in the parking garage and then almost killed en route to her aunt's house on the Big Island, Storm begins to wonder if her uncle was murdered. It appears that someone--a client, a family member, or a friend--believes that Storm, a close confidante of her uncle, knows something that they're already killed once to protect. She begins to investigate in order to defend herself and to avenge her beloved uncle's death. Storm is a strong and appealing character who still struggles with the aftermath of her mother's suicide when she was 12 and her feelings of isolation as it becomes apparent that her adoptive family has kept secrets from her. Vividly described settings from Honolulu's Chinatown to the spectacular scenery of the Big Island will entrance readers of this fast-paced debut, which effectively contrasts modern Hawaii with the lore of its past." --Booklist

"Storm Kayama is well on her way to a successful law career in a prestigious Honolulu firm when she arrives early one morning to find her boss dead in his office. Since Miles Hamasaki had virtually been a foster father to her after her own father died, Kayama is crushed, but doesn't question the doctor's statement that death was due to a heart attack. She begins to change her mind when a mugger tries to make off with her laptop, when her house is burglarized and some of the files she had dealing with Hamasaki's clients are stolen, and when his dispatch case can't be found. Kayama decides to take a breather and flies over to the Big Island for a visit with her relatives . . . only to be forced off the road to almost certain death in one of the gullies on the Island's east coast. With the help of one of her fellow attorneys, and after more than one bruising encounter with whoever is trying to silence her, Kayama finally literally stumbles onto the truth. PRIMITIVE SECRETS provides a glimpse into a complex and corrupt business world. Atkinson manages to make that glimpse both interesting and suspenseful." --John A. Broussard, I Love a Mystery

"Storm Kayama is turning her rebellious past into a promising future. She's working hard to get her law degree while clerking for her adoptive father, lawyer Miles Hamasaki, on the island of Honolulu. Miles was her real father's best friend. When Storm's father died, Miles welcomed her into his home and his heart. Now, the unthinkable has happened. Miles has been found dead in his office. Storm begins to notice things that don't make sense. There are files that appear to be missing, and she wonders about a cup with coffee in it found clutched in Miles' hand. Miles never drank coffee. And the family that Storm has always felt a part of now seems to distancing itself from her. She begins to question the circumstances of Miles' death. Is something else going on behind the scenes of the successful law firm? Are there secrets in the Hamasaki family? As others around her die through strange circumstances, Storm's love for Miles propels her into danger. As she gets closer to the truth, her own life is threatened. Storm must find out what really happened before it's too late.

Deborah Turrell Atkinson has crafted a superb novel, set beautifully in the middle of the mystery and myth of Hawaii. Ancient superstitions and modern realities wage a battle for justice in an exciting story that will keep readers guessing until the end.

I highly recommend PRIMITIVE SECRETS and look forward to more from this talented author."

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