A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst

A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping Javier plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard–and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident.

Now Sally’s back on another murder case mixed in with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin–set aflame right as Sally starts getting too close to the truth. Can Sally catch the killer before she’s burnt to a crisp, or will the case grow as cold as yesterday’s leftovers?

In a stew of suspects and restaurateurs, trouble boils over in the second in Leslie Karst’s tasty and tantalizing Sally Solari mystery series, A Measure of Murder.

I grew up reading cozy mysteries and jump at any chance to read one. A Measure of Murder has everything that’s fun to read about in this genre. It’s peppered with characters, any of which could have committed the crime, an easy to like sleuth, and clues that have you guessing about which one should I follow and which one’s a red herring.

This was a new to me author but I knew this is the second book in the Sally Solari mystery series which is centered around cooking and restaurants. And who doesn’t enjoy a good culinary mystery? This one also focuses on music, classical music to be exact. When a tenor falls to his death and no, it wasn’t by accident, it sets in motion a determined lead character to find out who did it and why.

This is a fast paced story with enjoyable characters and has me wanting to go and seek out the first book to learn more about sleuth Sally Solari. I don’t think you need to read the first one before this installment because I had no trouble figuring how who she was or what she did for a living.

If you like quick paced mysteries with some humor thrown in, and of course a recipe or two, then this might be one to add to your end of summer reading.

Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank

Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (282 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

When Rose reports for Fenton County jury duty she figures she’s lucky to get out of a morning working at the DMV. Instead, despite a disastrous encounter with the new assistant district attorney, Mason Deveraux, she’s picked as a juror on a murder case. As the trial progresses, she realizes an ominous vision she had in the men’s restroom proves the defendant is innocent. And there’s not a cotton picking thing she can do about it.

Or is there?

As if things weren’t bad enough, Rose’s older sister Violet is going through a mid-life crisis. Violet insists that Rose stop seeing her sexy new boyfriend, Arkansas state detective Joe Simmons and date other men. Rose is done letting people boss her around, but she can’t commit to Joe either. Still, Rose isn’t about to let the best thing in her life slip away.

Rose has more problems with her visions. Last time, they helped her stay out of prison but she’s not excited about having more. They just cause trouble.

This is the second book in a new series by Ms. Swank. She writes a good mystery and they tend to remind of Ms. Evanovich’s style. There’s humor, smart remarks, and Rose is always having problems with life.

She’s still working at the DMV. She still hates it. When she gets called for jury duty, she forgets about it. As she races off to report in, she has to call work, find a place to park, get money for the meter and jog to the courthouse. Unfortunately, she has no change. The flower shop won’t give her change, she has to buy a flower to get it. Then she gets a parking ticket while she’s in the flower shop. To add to her wonderful morning, she can’t use the women’s toilet because it’s being cleaned, so she sneaks in the men’s. She has a vision and hears a conversation in there she wishes she hadn’t.

You can see the author’s humor and feel Rose’s frustration and embarrassment. She’s new at love, wants to help the innocent jailed man, and can’t decide if she wants to move away from home. With all this going on and Rose fumbling along, it’s a fun read. It’s busy, odd things happen in court and away, and the murderer is coming after Rose. She’s trying to figure out love, learning to be friends with a male attorney and has found a girlfriend at the courthouse. Now she just to keep herself together. Rose is good at solving murders. Now if she can just learn how to do the best for herself… I can’t wait to read the next one in this series.

The Stages by Thom Satterlee

The Stages by Thom Satterlee
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (209 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

He trusts everyone, when he shouldn’t trust anyone.

How does a man with Asperger’s Syndrome step out of his office, leave behind the safety of his desk and books, and embrace the world he’s always kept at arm’s length?

All his life, Daniel Peters has hidden behind his reputation as one of the world’s best translators of the iconic philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. When his beloved ex-girlfriend and mentor dies under odd circumstances and a priceless Kierkegaard manuscript goes missing, Daniel turns out to be the last person to have seen her alive. To clear his name, he must leave the safety of his books and venture out into the streets of Copenhagen.

Reminiscent of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime, this mystery will keep readers guessing until the final page.

Who would kill the director of a specialized unit that worked only on the literature of Soren Kierkiegaard? It becomes clearer when the manuscript they were working on comes up missing. It’s not locked in the vault in another locked container. It’s nowhere in the building…

This story digs deep into the historical importance of Kierkiegaard’s work. It was almost too much detail for me. It also dwells on Asperger’s Syndrome. I found that much more interesting. Some of the symptoms of Daniel are the same as my own. That’s because I can be an introvert at times. With Daniel, it was a way of life.

The only way Daniel could hold a job was to focus on his task. He translated meticulously and accurately. He worked alone and had to make himself socialize. He couldn’t carry on a conversation and had trouble understanding a joke or why one he told wasn’t funny. But he doesn’t believe the director planned to die. Since he was almost the last one to see her live, the police come into his life and he has to turn in the shoes he was wearing (he fell down the stairs and hit the wall with his shoes) and he had to give them his DNA. He wasn’t excited about having the swab taken, but he did it.

This story goes way back. Daniel was once briefly engaged to the victim. He knows the family has a secret but he doesn’t know what it is. When he visits a bank deposit box to see what she has left him, it’s his translation of the manuscript and an amber necklace from long ago. His love from his past has left him a message.

This is complex tale with lots of players and various self-interests. There are secrets that have the power to hurt. It begins with a mother’s death, then the son commits suicide and the case gets even more intense. The author does a good job of offering hints and information all along the way. Some are more obvious than others. The ending was interesting and not something you could see forthcoming. It’s well worth a read, especially if you like history.

November Rain by Donald Harstad

November Rain by Donald Harstad
Publisher: Crooked Lane
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (306 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Carl Houseman, the deputy sheriff of rural Nation County, Iowa, leaves home to enter the world of international intrigue in the sixth in Donald Harstad’s critically acclaimed series.

Houseman’s daughter, Jane, has been studying abroad in the UK. When her best friend Emma Schiller has been kidnapped, Houseman, desperate to protect his daughter and help her friend, accepts Scotland Yard’s invitation to take him on as a consultant.

Emma’s trail leads to the door of her former professor–and ex-lover–Dr. Robert Northwood, whose impassioned activism on behalf of a pair of Muslim political prisoners has landed him unwittingly in cahoots with a cadre of dangerous individuals. It seems like a simple hoax, except that if Houseman doesn’t track down the professor’s co-conspirators, the consequences will be anything but simple–and the harm that will result could be global in Harstad’s gripping new installment in his outstanding series.

November Rain is the sixth book by the author that features his sleuth, Carl Houseman who’s a deputy sheriff in Iowa. I hadn’t read any of the other books and was somewhat worried I wouldn’t get caught up to speed on the character well enough to enjoy this story. However, that wasn’t the case. Within one chapter I felt like I knew who Carl was. The author does a great job giving insight into his personality. I knew that he loves his job, takes it seriously, and sometimes says things that made me laugh. I really enjoyed the opening scene where it seems Carl will do anything to wrangle his way out of taking the assignment in London.

Lucky for the reader, his superior won’t take no for an answer. Carl heads to the UK and is thrown into a situation that becomes larger than life. It’s a sort of fish out a water scenario which I think made it a fun read. I thought all the scenes featuring Carl were great but when he wasn’t on the scene, it sort of switched to a narrator that I felt put some distance between me and the person whose head I was in, and was my only dislike of the book.

It’s a fast paced tale and has twist and turns and a story that’s very relevant to today’s unsettled world. Mr. Harstad did a great job creating characters who found themselves suddenly caught up in trouble they hadn’t seen coming which gave it a page turning quality.

If you’re a fan of small town mysteries that combine themes from today’s headlines then I think this one would be ideal for your fall reading.