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Intersection Column | From Boondoggle to Book

How a Family Trip to Maui Became a Murder Mystery

by James R. Hannibal

Ever walk through the conference section of a resort? I do it more often than most, and that’s what led to the idea for a medical murder mystery in Maui.

On rare occasions, as an airline pilot (day job), I spend the night in a resort. These are very short layovers, with only 12 hours or so between the moment I park the airplane at the gate and the moment I’ll need to push back from the gate the next day—no time for lounging at the pool or parasailing. Mostly, I go for walks around the property to explore the out-of-the-way floors and halls. That often leads me to the lecture and meeting rooms set aside for conferences.

In my limited experience, at luxury resorts designed for sunbathing and scuba lessons, these conference areas have always been empty—so dark and abandoned that sometimes I wonder if I might be arrested and thrown in resort jail for transiting their hallways. But when I took my family to Maui for a vacation as a no-kidding paying resort customer, my experience was different.

Here’s the setup: I’d just scored a movie deal for The Lost Property Office with Columbia Pictures, and I was feeling a little splurgy—way too splurgy, mind you, considering the movie was never actually made (don’t count your chickens, and all that). Regardless, my foolish splurginess earned my wife and me a personal tour of the large Maui resort property where we were staying. During the tour, we passed by the conference section, and I made the poor tour guide take a detour for a more thorough look.

Wouldn’t you know it? The resort had a conference in progress. The place wasn’t dark and empty after all. At least, it wasn’t dark, but it sure seemed empty. I saw three people in one lecture room eating and chatting away while a video of a surgical procedure ran in the background. In the next room over, a speaker showed slides of hospital rooms to an audience of one. One!

Being the curious author type that I am, I asked what was up. “Is this the tiniest medical conference ever?”

“Oh no,” my tour guide replied. “There are more than two hundred attendees.”

Stunned, and ignoring clear signals from my wife to cease and desist my interrogation, I asked, “Then where exactly are these two hundred?”

“The beach, parasailing, shopping.” The tour guide laughed and shrugged. “Most don’t actually attend the classes. Doctors call it a boondoggle.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more forthright hotel employee before or since. It’s probably a good thing I was not some investigator looking into the accreditation practices of both the conference organizers and the attendees. Instead of dwelling on the scandalous implications, though, my author brain went straight to one question: Who was the one guy actually attending the classes like he was supposed to?

I was useless to my family for the rest of the trip. The wheels were turning. That studious attendee took shape in my mind. He may be dutiful, but is he dutiful to a fault? Does he ever kick back like his hooky-playing colleagues? What if he’s a workaholic? If so, what if he was forced to attend this conference by his administrator, who expected him to relax? And what if while attempting to obey with a calming beach walk (after attending all the first day’s classes, of course) he stumbles across a body? And to top it all off, what if this man is an atheist in desperate need of Jesus?

Such was the genesis of Elysium Tide, in which a forced vacation to one of these medical conference boondoggles puts Dr. Peter Chesterfield, a man who is always in control, into a situation where control is ripped from his hands. His abundance of skill isn’t enough to save a young woman’s life, and his obsession with making sense of her death leads him to killers, conspiracy and a confrontation with his own illusions.

To this day, I wish I had abandoned our tour guide and interrupted the class to find out more about the real man I saw in that room. Also, to this day, my wife is glad I didn’t. In any case, both you and I can at least see a fiction version of him come to life in Elysium Tide, and for that, I’m grateful.


About the Author

James R. Hannibal is no stranger to secrets and adventure. This former stealth pilot from Houston, Texas, has been shot at, locked up with surface-to-air missiles and chased down a winding German road by an armed terrorist. He is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his children’s mysteries, a former Thriller Award nominee and a 2020 Selah and Carol Award finalist for The Gryphon Heist—the opener for the CIA series that now includes Chasing the White Lion. James is a rare multisense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells, and hears flashes of light. If he tells you the chocolate cake you offered smells blue and sticky, take it as a compliment.


About the Book

Dr. Peter Chesterfield is one of the Royal London Hospital's top neurosurgeons. He is also a workaholic, ordered by his boss to take a week off to attend a medical symposium at the luxurious Elysium Grand on the island of Maui. While there, Peter pulls a woman with a skull fracture from the water. Although she dies in his arms, she leaves him with only one clue to what happened to her: the word “honu.” Increasingly obsessed with discovering the cause of his patient’s death, Peter becomes a source of deep irritation to detective Lisa Kealoha. But when the two join forces, they begin to uncover a destructive plot that runs far deeper than either of them could have imagined.


Did You Know?

Google search data from around the world revealed the COVID-19 crisis resulted in a massive rise in prayer. In fact, since the pandemic started, Google searches for prayer were the highest ever recorded, coming in at 30 percent above the norm. Here are some of the reasons why the global crisis brought the world to its knees:

  • Prayer offers comfort. Prayer is our direct line to God. It has a miraculous way of helping us hold on to hope. We discover that the very act of praying into our concerns gives us the ability to exchange our pain for God’s comfort.

  • Prayer offers answers and relief. Many people find relief from sorrow by pouring their hearts out to God and learning to wait in His presence. What relief I’ve felt as I’ve learned to trust Him as I’ve placed my requests and burdens at His feet, knowing my troubles would be transformed in His hands.

  • Prayer offers insight into difficulties. Many people are led to pray when difficulties knock them off balance. Not only do they want to understand the whys of their problems, but they want solutions that will help them overcome. As we continue in prayer, God will reveal needed insights, and as we learn to trust Him, He will supply us with peace, love and encouragement.

The prayer lessons learned in the pandemic will continue to draw people closer to God, no matter what the future holds.


Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“A little escape from the hectic world is what I find when entering a friendly Christian bookstore. And I walk out with a rich investment of my time.”


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