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by Leslie Karst
Crooked Lane , April 2019
320 pages
ISBN: 1683319532

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this fourth entry in the series, protagonist Sally Solari is working to take on a full partner in her successful restaurant, Gauguin which she inherited some time ago when her mother died. Set in Santa Cruz, California, there is a nicely exotic Asian food theme running like a thread through the wallpaper.

And wallpaper is a big point here: just as wallpaper is an important element in the way it serves as a setting in a room Bright? Cheerful? Dark? Gloomy? Peeling? Stained? so being a cosy serves as a setting in this mystery novel. There's food, there's drink, there's music, there's art, and there are recipes at the end. But make no mistake: this isn't your great aunt's cosy. This is a fine mystery, well thought through and constructed, with defined characters and little that's silly or implausible. "Cosy" is just the backdrop and gives Sally Solari et. al. a neighborhood to move in. I had no idea I had been longing for someone to upgrade the cosy into the dignity of a "real" mystery novel until I came across this one.

Cheers for Leslie Karst for her inventive mind and strong skills as a writer. This cosy is a pleasure.

Sally Solari learns of the death of an aunt from an estranged branch of the family whose twentyish daughter, who is blind, lived with her mother until her suicide. Grieving and devastated, Evelyn really needs a place to land and stay for a while until she can figure out how to cope with her loss and the new situation of being alone. Sally may not be enthusiastic, but she takes Evelyn in. Being with Evelyn is an education: she is far from helpless. She is intelligent, educated, skilled, and adept at devising strategies that will keep her as independent as possible. And she's a really nice person.

While running the restaurant and working to take on a full partner now that it is such a success and soothing hurt feelings on her staff and trying to help one worker who is unidentifiably troubled, Sally spends some of her time with Evelyn (Evelyn has friends and a life separate from Sally). They share meals and a few outings and then Sally takes her back to her mother's house for additional clothes and favorite things. When Evelyn finds things out of place in the house small things that had always been carefully ordered so that Evelyn could find them easily Evelyn begins to suspect that her mother was not alone when she died and that it is likely that she did not take her own life but was murdered.

It takes a number of small and odd developments for Sally to come around to Evelyn's point of view but she does and that involves her again in unravelling clues that lead to a killer.

Congratulations to Leslie Karst for a really good mystery novel.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, April 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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