Neil Plakcy is the author of the Mahu Investigations, about openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka, as well as the Have Body, Will Guard adventure romance series and the Golden Retriever Mysteries.
He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and former president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a second-place finisher on Jeopardy!
His website is www.mahubooks.com.
Character-driven mystery, romance and mainstream novels
If you’re of a certain age, like me, you grew up watching cartoons of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The sassy flying squirrel with the aviator glasses and his lovably dumb moose pal entertained me for hours on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. So I guess it was fated that when a squirrel sidekick literally fell into my new mystery novel that I’d call him Raki. (Got to be careful of copyright infringement, you know!)
The protagonist of GENIE FOR HIRE is Biff Andromeda, an ancient genie in a buff body, working as a private investigator in a twenty-first century Miami suburb. He uses his magical powers to investigate a case that begins with a set of missing negatives, and morphs into something much more deadly, especially when he realizes that the dangerous female genie he has loved and lost over centuries has become involved.
Shortly after the book begins, Biff discovers the body of his newest client in her photography studio, a few steps along in the same shopping center as his office. Shaken, he steps outside to a tree-lined area behind the center, where a squirrel in the palm tree above him chitters angrily at him. Without thinking, Biff zaps the poor rodent, who tumbles to the ground.
Immediately regretful, he zaps the squirrel again, bringing him back to life. Now in addition to a dead client, he has a squirrel who follows him everywhere with nearly canine devotion. (Notice a connection to my golden retriever mysteries?) Raki’s not that smart; he’s a squirrel, after all. But Biff’s genie girlfriend, Farishta, can communicate with him on a basic level and discovers his name. Together, these three embark on a quest to discover who killed the photographer, which leads them into some dark territory. But Raki’s there to provide some comic relief.
If you have qualms about the place of a squirrel in a crime novel, then complain to my critique group. These awesome writers fell in love with the little furry-tailed squirrel, and every time I’d bring a new chapter in they’d ask, “Where’s Raki? Raki has to be part of whatever Biff is doing. We want more Raki!”
Rest assured, no squirrels were harmed in the writing of this book, though I did observe a lot of squirrel behavior as my golden retriever stalked the ones who live in my neighborhood. I used to think they were just rodents with fluffy tails and good public relations. But Raki has burrowed into my heart and I have a new respect for their ability to run, jump, and drop nuts on the heads of unsuspecting dogs.