Monthly Archives: August 2017

Excerpt Reveal: ‘A Measure of Murder’ by Leslie Karst

Measure CoverTitle: A Measure of Murder

Genre: Mystery

Author: Leslie Karst

Website: http://www.lesliekarstauthor.com/

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

Sally Solari’s plate is beyond full between juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping plan the autumn menu for Gauguin, the restaurant she’s just inherited. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins a chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition, the Mozart Requiem. But 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 seasoned 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 when 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?  When this unseemly stew of greed, jealously, secrets and lies threatens to boil over, Sally had better watch her step—because someone could get badly burned.  If Sally isn’t careful, her sleuthing could be a real recipe for disaster.

Intelligent, engaging, and peppered with wit, humor, and tantalizing twists and turns, A Measure of Murder is mesmerizing.  Leslie Karst serves up an irresistible tale resplendent with charming characters, a to-die-for setting, and decadent recipes.  Readers will blissfully lose themselves in this smartly plotted, delightfully detailed and sumptuously suspenseful story.  A Measure of Murder is a story to be savored from beginning to end.

karst headshot

About the Author: The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. An ex-lawyer like Sally Solari, her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. Leslie and her wife, Robin, divide their time between Santa Cruz, California and Hilo, Hawaii. Leslie Karst is also the author of Dying for a Taste, which was released to rave reviews in 2016.

Connect with Leslie Karst on the Web:

http://www.lesliekarstauthor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lesliekarstauthor/

https://twitter.com/ljkarst

http://www.lesliekarstauthor.com/blog

 

EXCERPT

At around eight-thirty, we got a whole slew of orders all at once for our special, poussin à la Grecque, and Javier moved me over to the charbroiler. We now had close to a full house, unusual for a Tuesday, and everyone was feeling the pressure caused by having only the minimal weeknight staff, made all the worse by Kris’ absence.

I was happy for the move to the charbroiler, to return to a station I felt more confident at. And as I stood there at the grill, flipping eight orders of spatchcocked game hens slathered in garlic and oregano and then basting them with lemon juice and olive oil, I felt focused and calm, oblivious to the tempest awhirl about me.

“Fire the rib-eyes for twelve!” Brandon shouted, poking his head through the pick-up window.

“Got it,” I answered and, grabbing one of the two steaks I’d taken from the cooler on seeing the ticket come in, threw it onto the back of the grill behind the hens. It would be the medium-rare order; the rare steak would go on a minute later.

I started to step back to give myself a respite from the intense heat blasting from the grill, but jumped forward again on hearing Javier’s voice call out, “Behind you!” The head chef scuttled past me and made his way to the end of the line, where he stood conferring with Brian.

Time for that second steak. I laid it next to the first, and then inspected my Cornish game hens. The two nearest looked done, so I pulled out the insta-read thermometer I keep clipped inside the breast pocket of my chef’s jacket and inserted it into their thighs: 166 and 167 degrees—perfect. Snagging the pair, I set them on two warm plates and handed them over to Reuben, who finished the entrées off with a mushroom and basmati rice pilaf and a stack of thinly-sliced roasted zucchini and eggplant. He had just passed the plates through the pick-up window to Brandon when there was a shout from the other end of the kitchen.

“Fire!”

I turned toward the voice, wondering if the shouter was upset about an order of mine that hadn’t yet been fired, but then realized it was the prep-cook, Tomás, who was doing the yelling. “It’s on fire!” he shrieked again, gesturing with the stainless steel containers he held in each hand.

Before I could identify where exactly he was pointing, the ANSUL system was activated and its fire suppressant agent started spewing from the nozzles above the Wolf range, causing all of us to jump back out of the way. Within seconds the hot-line was enveloped in several inches of white foam.

The entire kitchen staff stood there, stunned.

“Damn,” Reuben finally said, breaking the silence. “It’s a freakin’ winter wonderland.”

I stared at the charbroiler and stove: at my beautiful game hens and rib-eye steaks, and all the sauté pans and sauce pots whose contents were now hidden under a blanket of who-knew-what noxious chemicals. What a nightmare.

Javier was standing next to me unmoving, his eyes wide and mouth slack. Once it was clear the nozzles had finished extruding their white goo, he shook his head as if to clear it, and then stepped forward to shut off all the burners on the Wolf range. “Go ahead and turn the charbroiler and salamander off, too,” he called out to me over his shoulder as he reached down to dial the oven knobs to their off position. “We don’t want to risk any gas leaks or electrical fires.”

I did as he instructed and then turned to Tomás. “You saw it,” I said. “Did one of the pans catch fire?”

“No,” he answered. “It was in the garbage can.” The prep cook indicated the waste bin at the far end of the Wolf range, now also covered in white foam. “There was smoke and flames coming out of it.”

“Really?” I said. “That’s weird.”

But then I remembered my dad telling a story about a fire starting in his garbage can after he’d thrown away some rags with paint thinner on them. It had been a hot day, and the rags had apparently spontaneously combusted. The fire could have caused a lot of damage to his house if a neighbor hadn’t seen smoke coming out of the can and rushed over to warn him.

It was certainly hot as blazes in the Gauguin kitchen right now, what with all the cooking elements having been on full blast. “Did anyone throw any grease or greasy paper into the trash?” I asked, raising my voice above the din that had erupted in the kitchen once the shock of the ANSUL system going off had passed. “Or see anyone who did?”

No one admitted doing such a thing, or to seeing anyone do so. But then again, all our staff had been trained never to place highly inflammable items into the kitchen garbage can.

So who could be lying? It had to have ignited for some reason.

I walked over to the waste bin; it was now a charred, foamy mess. So even if I wanted to sift through its no-doubt disgusting contents, I seriously doubted I’d be able identify the fire-starting agent.

Looking back up, I surveyed the people now crowding around the stove and realized I was standing next to Brian, who hadn’t moved from where he’d been immediately before the fire—right next to the waste bin. As I stared at the cook, apprehension growing in my chest, he turned to meet my gaze. I wasn’t positive, but I thought I detected the trace of a smile before he leaned over to murmur something to Javier.

Brian then strode out of the kitchen, and as he left, he pushed up the sleeves of his chef’s jacket, revealing the tattoo I’d noticed the first time we’d met: that bright orange and yellow flame running up the inside of his forearm.

 

 

 

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Excerpt reveal: Beautiful Mess, by John Herrick

Beautiful-Mess-Low-Resolution-Color-Book-CoverTitle: BEAUTIFUL MESS

Genre: Fiction

Author: John Herrick

Websitewww.johnherrick.net

Publisher: Segue Blue

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

Protagonist Del Corwyn is an aging relic—an actor who climbed from errand boy to Academy Award nominee; who kept company with Hollywood’s golden era elite; who even shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. But now, Del Corwyn is facing bankruptcy. Humiliated and forced to downgrade his lifestyle and sell the home he’s long cherished, Del is destined to fade into a history of forgotten legends—unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance. While searching through memorabilia from his beloved past, Del rediscovers a mysterious envelope, dated 1962, containing an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe—and proof that she named him its legal guardian.  Seemingly overnight, Del goes from bankrupt, washed up has-been to the top of Hollywood’s A-list. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream?

Beautiful Mess follows one man’s journey towards finding love and relevance where he least expects it—and proves that coming-of-age isn’t just for the young.

About the Author: A graduate of the University of Missouri—Columbia, John Herrick explores themes of spiritual journeys and the human heart in his works. Herrick’s debut novel, From the Dead, hailed as “a solid debut novel” by the Akron Beacon Journal, achieved Amazon best-seller status, while Herrick’s second novel, The Landing, was named a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Herrick’s nonfiction eBook, 8 Reasons Your Life Matters, received over 160,000 downloads and landed at #1 on Amazon’s Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists.  His third novel, Between these Walls, garnered high critical acclaim, including Publishers Weekly’s prediction that “Herrick will make waves.” John Herrick is a native of St. Louis. Visit him online at: www.johnherrick.net

Connect with the Author on the Web:

www.johnherrick.net

https://www.facebook.com/johnherrickbooks

https://twitter.com/johnherrick

https://www.youtube.com/c/johnherrick

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2121201.John_Herrick

http://johnherrick.net/main-blog/

BEAUTIFUL MESS

JOHN HERRICK
EXCERPT

            Arnie’s cheeks turned rosy as he grinned at Del. A wide, toothy grin. The discoloration of enamel betrayed a long-entrenched penchant for red wine. He rolled the script and slapped it against his palm.

“Do you realize how many people would dry-hump a flagpole to get their hands on this?” exclaimed the agent. “We’re talking history here! Hollywood’s best-kept secret!”

Del felt a bittersweet quiver in his gut but suppressed it. His life was about to become interesting again.

Arnie paged through the screenplay further, scanning the dialogue. Several minutes ticked past. Del savored the silence which, in this case, was the sound of power.

“Have you read this, Del?”

“I have.”

“Pretty deep shit in here. Dark shit, the kind that scares the hell out of you.” Arnie skipped to the screenplay’s midpoint and read some more. “And talk about explicit. The profanity, the sexual content, everything.”

“She made herself vulnerable, no doubt.”

“Damn, Del. This woman must’ve been more fucked up than we thought.”

Del winced. “Arnie, cut it out.”

“Sorry, I forgot you two were pals.” The agent shook his head in an absentminded manner, his mouth hanging open as he read further. “No wonder she didn’t show this to anybody else. Can you imagine how people would have reacted to this in 1962? The film would’ve been X-rated—if ratings had existed back then—and gotten banned from theaters. People would’ve protested outside. This script would’ve ruined Marilyn Monroe’s career.”

“But today—”

“—it’ll resurrect it.”

The men stared at each other for a moment, sizing each other up.

“But why you?” Arnie asked at last. “You said you two were buddies, but she knew tons of people. For all intent and purposes, she bequeathed it to you without realizing it. One of her final acts before she died. Why did she put this into your hands?”

Del shrugged. “I never betrayed her.”

He made his way toward a mini-fridge Arnie kept behind a bureau door and helped himself to a bottled water. He took a swig and began to pace the room, piecing the puzzle together with each stride.

“Many people aren’t aware of this,” Del said, “but her emotional state took such a dive, she was forced into a mental institution against her will for a brief period. That event left a permanent scar. Toward the end of her life, she didn’t trust many people, especially since people she trusted betrayed her and sent her to that place. Once she escaped, she feared the day would come when they’d lock her up again.

“This script exposed some of the inner workings and torments of her mind. What if authorities used it as evidence of a dangerous mental condition and sent her back to the one place she feared most? It was Joe DiMaggio, another ex-husband, who worked to get her out of there—and she barely made it out. If they had recommitted her, she would have lost her freedom forever.”

“But something must have prompted her to give this script to you, Del. If she was so paranoid, why did she risk giving the script to anyone? Why didn’t she keep it to herself?”

“She mentioned possible trouble ahead but didn’t go into detail.”

“You’re telling me Marilyn Monroe was a psychic?”

“Of course not. More like intuition. A sense that something was about to happen.” Del returned to his seat and crossed one leg over the other. He interlinked his fingers across his knee. “And she was right. A few months later, she died from a barbiturate overdose. Some speculated it was accidental, but the amount of drugs in her system were so high, it was hard to believe it was anything but suicide.”

Arnie tapped a pen against a legal pad. Del’s heart stirred. The memory of her death threatened to bring tears to the resilient man’s eyes.

Del leaned forward and locked eyes with his agent.

“For Marilyn, this script wasn’t about business. It wasn’t about fame.” Solemn, Del added, “This script is my chance to bring Marilyn Monroe back to life, one more time—on her own terms. To position her as a serious artist, the way she craved people to view her.”

“Your sentiment is honorable. That said, this revelation will set in motion a feeding frenzy.” Arnie paused, and Del caught a glint in his eye. “And I know you, Del. You like the cameras, the adoring fans. You want a career comeback—and this is the best ticket you’ll ever get.”

“Arnie—”

“All I’m saying is this: I don’t doubt your motive to honor Marilyn Monroe’s memory, but once we set this in motion, you’ll get caught up in the whirlwind. I’m warning you now because I don’t want to have to dig you out of a guilt complex later.”

“I’ll be fine, Arnie. Trust me.”

His agent regarded him for a moment, then nodded in resignation. “In that case, we need to set a plan in motion. How do we release the news of this discovery? How do we consider contenders? Where do we set the minimum bar for a deal? We get to call the shots here. They’ll need to play by our rules, and this script needs to be on strict lockdown.”

“Agreed.”

“In that case, the first thing we need to do is establish its authenticity. I’ll get the proof lined up and we’ll keep it in our back pockets. Next, we’ll hold a press conference to announce the existence of the screenplay—but let the press speculate about whether it’s authentic. We’ll hem and haw for a while, tease them a bit, make them think they have us cornered.”

Del didn’t want to look like a fool in public, regardless of how temporary or intentional, but he was willing to hear the rest of the idea. He stroked his chin and clasped his hands upon his chest. “And what happens next?”

“Then, when attention is at its peak, we release the evidence. It’ll be good for another round of marketing. So instead of releasing the evidence at the first news conference, we’ll get twice the bang for our buck.”

“Makes sense to me.” Del felt much more at ease. He exhaled and took a swig of water. The bottle’s thin plastic crackled in his grip.

“We’ll need some time to strategize this while the thumbprints are verified. I know a guy who can get it done under the radar. Meanwhile—and I’m sure you know this, but I’ll stress it anyway—don’t breathe a word of this until the day of our big announcement. Not to the media, the studio people, producers—not even to the chef at your sushi restaurant. The element of surprise will strengthen our bargaining position. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

Arnie exhaled, as though in relief, and scratched his bald head. His fingers left behind red streaks. “This is big, Del.”

Del’s pulse increased with anticipation, yet he maintained his composure. He finished his water and crumpled the bottle.

‘Big’ didn’t do it justice.

This wasn’t just Marilyn’s final chance.

It was Del Corwyn’s, too.

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