Title: A Measure of Murder
Author: Leslie Karst
Publisher: Crooked Lane
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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.
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:
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.
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.