I don't dump on writers because I had a bad day. I do think lazy writers deserve lickins, especially when they create bad fiction and negative attitudes. But those lickins mean I have to explain to you where this went so wrong.
If this story were set in some mainland port town without too much flavour--say, Portland or San Jose--it would have gotten 3 stars as a nice little plot decently written, especially for the novelty of the red herring about interviews. However, when an author chooses any locale with strong ambience, part of their success or failure becomes rendering that locale in an authentic way and weaving it into the plot. On this, the story earns its measley 2 stars. And I mean earns them.
There are some basic improbables or misfits in the set-up, irrespective of locale. The narrator was caught picking pockets on newlywed couples in Waikiki when she wound up broke and homeless--but only by an akamai cop, apparently not by the couples, since she was not arrested. Picking pockets is not something you just start doing and do well. It's always been a fine skill, and her doing this ought to make us (and Pete) think that she is already a successful career criminal, not a down-on-her-luck innocent. As well, since everyone lives on credit cards and traveler's checks, this isn't too useful. It's not the newlyweds carrying a lot of cash, but the Canadians (a truism you learn working in Waikiki).
She is paying them back (How many thousands did she get off them? More like twenties.) working for the cop's mother as apparently the only maid at a small hotel (none are that small), with room and board and the rest to restitution. Maid pay normally begins at $12/hr, she hasn't got expensive habits or a car, so either the math is off or "Momma Jo" is taking advantage of her. I also don't think one maid is enough unless she's turning in 12-hour days or that's the tiniest hotel in The Tourist Reservation. I think Momma Jo is not reporting this whole business, not paying Social Security or medical benefits, &c. Again, it's a negative effect that I don't think the author intends, but she should have caught it if she had thought this through. In fact, she makes all the characters have rather creepy personality aspects, including her "Aloha Pete." I don't think she has command of her material, or else she considers harmless or amusing things I consider predatory or manipulative.
Hookers in the story wait down an alley for someone to come pick them up. I don't think so, in any city. Those in Waikiki will get in a pedestrian's face and lean in any open car window. This includes couples, since they might just want a threesome. Did the author miss this experience? Downtown, where the author describes this pick-up alley, the hookers are visible when not trolling the bars. There are, of course, only women doing this in this story. A male hooker is perfectly capable of having seen a missing person, so why doesn't the narrator question a few of the Chinatown mahus? For that matter, other than being Stupid On Cue to create a Silly Romantic Misunderstanding, why is she dressing like a hooker to talk to hookers? (Handling the SRM is another negative characterization for me: it makes me think a lot less of both of the characters.)
Also, all hookers are well-educated and moderately intelligent. None of them speak as if they were rejecting middle-class standards. That speaks for itself.
Let's get to the "yelp of indignation from the author"--the unconcious racism that annoyed me so much it made it hard to finish. If it were conscious, we could just boo it. Instead, its low-key effort re-inforces marginalization of people not Euro-descended without being something we can obviously reject.
Evidence: everyone except three people have WASP names, and are played like mainlanders. This includes even all the hookers, among whom are no ethnic names: no Lani, no Pua, no Shablee, no Marileen.
The only exceptions to haole names are Mr. Fu, a Chinese crime lord, who has only the one name. Apparently there are so few people named Fu here that he doesn't need to be Min-ho Fu or Mickey Fu or "Chicken" Fu to distinguish him. (Around here, "Chicken" would indicate scrappy like a fighting chicken.) (Most Chinese have one of 100 family names.)
The two only Hawai'ians are "Aloha Pete" and "Momma Jo." They do not have family names, any more than slaves in plantation novels do. Aloha Pete is not a tour bus driver: he's a police detective, fer cryin out loud. But he never gets a last name, to be, say, Detective Kealoha. The vast population here of Japanese (very thick in HPD), Pilipinos, Koreans, Samoans, &c., never appear, let alone popolos. Except for the token Hawai'ians and a couple pake, everyone is haole. Even Mr. Fu is only interviewing haole girls for the job he has, though authentically he would only be interested in Chinese girls.
This leads directly to the author's obvious ignorance of Honolulu, let alone its cultures. She can claim to have once spent a week here, but she can't convince me she was conscious for much of it.
She has the sun rising red behind the hotels and setting behind the mountains. She really needed to refresh her memory with a map. She would have seen that the mountains are all east and north of the city. Sun and moon both set in the sea. Obviously, in all her days here, she never watched sunset from Waikiki. She also never watched sunrise: by the time it clears Diamond Head, it is pure white, no longer horizon red.
She describes a long beach beyond Waikiki, but never gives it a name. This seems a little bizarre. If I were writing about Manhattan, I wouldn't describe "a large greensward park in the middle of the skyscrapers" but never mention it was called Central Park. Ditto London and Hyde Park (so you don't confuse it with Regent Park--I mean, Honolulu has more than one beach park and all of them are long because, duh, they follow the coast). Equally, rather than saying "an industrial area" (and except for Campbell Industrial Park, ours are all light industry, not full of factories like most readers would think) she could have picked Kakaako, Mapunapuna, or Iwelei off the map.
Especially grinding is when her now-resident narrator talks about "downtown Waikiki," a phrase only a tourist would use. The references to a hooker's zone "downtown" ignores that it's called Chinatown, an historical area-name rather than a description of ethnicity as the area now has far more Vietnamese and Korean shops.
Being this ignorant of stuff you could mostly research on the Web, you can guess that she gets the rest wrong, too. No one talks local, even the hookers. An unnamed Chinese housekeeper uses a vaudeville pidgin that comes and goes. For her Hawai'ians, the author sticks in a few words not used the way they ought to be. I can't imagine anyone called Aloha Pete, not even a tour bus driver, and "Momma Jo" would be called "Aunty Jo" by the narrator because that's what we do. It's idiomatic that all older women are "aunty" to young people, but not "momma" except to their children. I've never heard anyone use "keiki" about their grown child except where a mainlander would call one her baby.
The author keeps talking about coconut palms, but they're fairly rare in landscaping, because upkeep is so humbug and liability so high (the coconut palm areas on, say, Molokai, have hard-hat-zone signage). On the other hand, while she does actually mention a banyan tree, she ignores the golden shower tree, the poincianas, the monkeypod, the kapok, and all the others shading the streets and lawns, not to mention the flowers that in spring and summer make this place smell like heaven (plumeria, pikake, red and white ginger, tuberose, &c). Some, like bougainvillea and hibiscus, are year-round.
The narrator hides in mangroves along the Ala Wai. This artificial canal is very steep-sided, to drain the swamp Waikiki would be otherwise, and in all my time working down there I never saw mangroves growing on the banks. Cement embankments with rails and water-taxi stairs, but no mangroves. It hasn't been a sand beach since before WWII.
Also, the "warehouse" where the kidnapped women are held would pretty well have to be a container yard on Sand Island. We don't have a zone of brick warehouses the way I've seen back East. The closest might be a cinder-block and tin building in Kakaako or Iwilei, and none are so isolated that screams for help would go unnoticed during working hours. They're a long way from soundproof.
As for "I could smell the poi on his breath," that's reaching about as far as you can for fake atmosphere. Few adults eat poi, the haole guy sure wouldn't, and it doesn't have a smell. The kim chee on his breath, okay, even the katsu sauce.
To sum up, if she had set this story in New Orleans, used zero southernisms (not a single appropriate y'all), named a brown police detective Bayou Pete with no last name, and his Momma Jo, in one or two places stuck in a creole word or two used improperly, smelled the beignets on someone's breath, and made all the detectives WASP from up North, while the sun rose over the Gulf and no place but the city had a name, while draping it all in Spanish moss, I think you would find it an unsatisfactory experience. That's what she did here, just lots farther west. As a result, I don't expect her to do a bit better in any other story, and won't bother to read them.