Primitive Secrets

Storm Kayama, a recent law school graduate and clerk in her hanai uncle’s lucrative Honolulu firm, walks into his office one morning to find him sitting 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 questions surround Hamasaki’s death, and her adopted family begins to close ranks as Storm’s suspicions rise.


Heading to the Big Island for a weekend escape from escalating pressures, Storm narrowly escapes a terrible accident en route to her aunt’s and uncle’s mountain home. There, with Aunt Maile, a traditional Hawaiian healer, and Uncle Keone, a paniolo on the huge Parker Ranch, Storm encounters a legend from her youth and a family totem, or ‘aumakua, which will protect her—and do it a damn sight better than modern medicine is handling the firm’s clients.


As Storm struggles to heal her own childhood wounds and bring justice to Hamasaki’s killer, she also comes to grips 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 as she unfolds a clever, contemporary plot laced with island lore.

“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.”


“Deborah Turrell Atkinson smoothly blends contemporary crime and native Hawaiian legend in her 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

Atkinson draws us in like a spider beckoning a fly with her evocative descriptions of the Hawaiian islands and ancient Hawaiian legends, as Storm, along with the reader, discovers a web of betrayal spun by those she trusts most. Lovers of mysteries will be captivated by this tale of the darker side of paradise, and will surely want to follow Storm Kamaya down the road through another adventure in Hawaii. We should all hope that Primitive Secrets is only the first of Storm’s stories, with many more to come.”


“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.”

Library Journal

“Atkinson is a talented writer with a good story to tell. Her plot, while intricate at times, never falters. She knows her craft and proves it on every page. Treat yourself to Primitive Secrets, a mysterious travelogue from a writer who lives in Hawaii.”

“The Hawaiian Islands are a fascinating background to Storm’s strong character, and teens will want to become acquainted with both.”

VOYA, Voice of Youth Advocates

“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.”

Nancy Mehl, Book Reviewer and Author

“Primitive Secrets was a treat. The characters were real, and I liked them immensely. (Let’s face it, if you don’t like the characters, you don’t care what happens to them.) The plot moved fast, and had several interesting layers, so it kept me turning pages. There were several very exciting sequences, like a car chase on a rainy, winding rural road at night, and some very funny events, which I won’t divulge. One of the things that sets this book apart was that Atkinson took me to Hawaii. I felt that I knew Hawaii’s people, past and present. I became part of an exotic cultural mix of customs and beliefs, and traveled to places tourists don’t get to go. If you like Tony Hillerman’s mysteries set among the Navajos in Arizona, or Dana Stabenow’s mysteries set in Alaska, you’ll love Primitive Secrets!


“This is a wonderfully atmospheric mystery that accurately reflects the flavors and sites of O’ahu and the Big Island. The foods, the people, and the changing land all ring true and I could easily identify the places Atkinson describes. She also creates a witty, smart, and likeable character in Storm, a part-Japanese, part-Hawaiian, 30-something woman. The humor, scenery, Hawaiian folklore, and fast-moving plot all combine to make a must-read mystery. I can’t wait for Atkinson’s next novel.”