Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane is on his way to an Army live-fire training area, not to practice his marksmanship, but to examine a mutilated corpse just found inside a lava tube. The body has all the signs of a ritualistic killing, except there’s not much blood.
The site also has a fire ring and stone chips, which alerts Kane to the possibility of an archaeology site. That prompts a call to his girlfriend Nalani, park ranger-in-waiting who works on the telescopes on Mauna Kea, and asks her to recommend a good archaeologist.
In comes Jimmy Hikorea, an embittered, sharp-tongued genius with a chip on his shoulder – he uses a wheelchair after losing both legs in an Army friendly fire incident in Vietnam. However, he and Koa quickly form a bond – each recognizes the weaknesses and strengths of the other – and work together to identify the victim and preserve the archaeological site. And maybe solve the murder too.
Not only does the lava tube reveal an expansive archaeological site, but the body is that of a staff astronomer at the telescopes, and his murder coincides with the removal of ancient artifacts from the lava tube. However, Kane picks up on the tension between the Mauna Kea director, Dr Thurston Masters, and two subordinates: Gunter Nelson and Charlie Harper, and traces it back to the lava tube death. But just as he and Sergeant Basa pin the murder on one man, evidence pops up to convict another. It’s a master cover-up that promises to end spectacularly.