THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS
By Max Allan Collins
Thomas & Mercer
Collins’ story begins on the 5th of December,
1941 in Honolulu, Hawaii, where famed writer Edgar Rice
Burroughs is residing with one of his sons, Hulbert “Hully.” Tensions on the
island are high, as recent political events indicate the high probability of a
war with Japan.
Still, most of the Army and Navy’s commanding brass are unwilling to believe
that the fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor could
be the target of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Burroughs, and a few of his
friends, believe otherwise, seeing the obvious vulnerability of all those
fighting ships crammed together in one harbor. Never mind the various army
airbases across the island having their aircraft lined up side by side like ducks
in a shooting gallery at the circus.
The one distraction in this charged atmosphere is the plight
of two young lovers. Bill Fielder, a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Arizona, is in
love with a band singer of Japanese descent named Pearl Harada and wants to
marry her. Being one of Hully’s friends, he confesses his father, an Army
General, is racist and will most likely object to him marrying the girl.
approaches Burroughs senior, requesting he help her get an audience with Bill’s
father. Burroughs agrees, feeling genuine sympathy for the couple. But before
this can happen, Pearl
is murdered on the beach outside his bungalow.
At first Burroughs and son believe her death was the result
of the romance but as they begin to investigate, they come to suspect Pearl may have been aware
of certain espionage activities by other Japanese residents. Enough to get her
Once again, Collins spins a gripping mystery set against one
of history’s most infamous moments, the attack on Pearl
Harbor. Beginning his tale two days earlier, Collins is able to
build the suspense moving forward through time until the dawn of the 7th,
the “Day of Infamy” and then he powerfully depicts the actual attack and its devastating
destruction of the U.S. fleet and death of thousands of Americans, but military
and civilian. Amidst this chaos, the creator of Tarzan closes in on a brutal
killer. An ironic counterpoint to the destruction unfolding all around
“The Pearl Harbor Murders” is brilliant. Not only for its historical setting, but Collins deft portrayal of one of the most beloved and cherished American writers of all time. The book is a treat we recommend it soundly.