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A Sense for Murder: Leslie Karst

A Sense for Murder (A Sally Solari Mystery Book 6) by Leslie KarstA Sense for Murder

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A Sense for Murder

A Sense For MurderChef Sally Solari has – to her own bewilderment – built a reputation as a talented sleuth who keeps tripping over dead bodies. But getting mixed up in the curious case of a cookbook killer threatens to be the final chapter in not just her investigating career . . . but her life.

It’s the height of the tourist season in Santa Cruz, California, and Sally Solari has her hands full, both juggling crowds of hungry diners at her French-Polynesian restaurant Gauguin, as well as appeasing her father, who’s distressed at the number of homeless people camped out in front of Solari’s, the family’s Italian seafood restaurant out on the historic fisherman’s wharf.

Nevertheless, when Sally gets the opportunity to volunteer at a farm-to-table dinner taking place at the hip new restaurant and culinary bookshop Pages and Plums, she seizes the chance. Not only is it a fundraiser for an organization aiding the homeless and seniors, but up for auction at the event is a signed boxset of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Sally’s hero, the renowned chef Julia Child. But then the Pages and Plums dining room manager turns up dead – the locked cabinet containing the precious books now empty – and the irrepressible Sally once again finds herself up to her neck in a criminal investigation.

She may have a sense for murder, but can Sally outwit a devious killer with a taste for French cooking before the villain makes mincemeat of her, too? A Sense for Murder is a fast-paced, super fun culinary cozy mystery that will have your brain working and your mouth watering. And if you haven’t met sleuthing chef Sally yet, it’s safe to jump right in.

A Sense for Murder (A Sally Solari Mystery) Cozy Mystery 6th in Series Setting – California Severn House (August 1, 2023) Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1448309050 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1448309054 Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BXPY61Q1


To purchase A Sense for Murder, click on any of the following links: Amazon – B&N –

Interview with Sally Solari

Hi Sally, great to have you on my blog today to talk to us about your latest adventure, A Sense for Murder.

Tell us about your restaurant Gauguin:

Gauguin is a French-Polynesian restaurant started by my Aunt Letta in Santa Cruz, California, which I inherited after she was sadly murdered a year and a half ago.

(The story of how I tracked down her killer can be found in Leslie Karst’s telling of the account in Dying for a Taste.)

The menu features seasonal dishes made from locally sourced ingredients such as salmon and squid from our Monterey Bay; artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries from our local farms; and wines produced from grapes grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Our Spot Prawns with Citrus and Harissa are to die for, if you’ll pardon the pun.)

I grew up in the restaurant business, so taking over Gauguin wasn’t too much of a stretch for me. But it’s been hard on my father, who’s convinced that I’ve now become one of those hipster “foodies” who looks down on our family’s old-school Italian seafood place out on the municipal wharf.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, however, for there’s no dish on earth that beats my dad’s fabulous linguine with clam sauce!

I love farm-to-table dinners. Tell us about the fundraiser and Pages and Plums:

Pages and Plums is an eclectic mix of café, wine bar, and culinary-themed bookshop that’s already garnering big buzz around town after having been open for only a month, so when my pal Allison invited me to try it out for lunch, I was only too happy to oblige. And then when the owner told me about the fundraiser they were hosting—a farm-to-table dinner in support of Teens’ Table—I found myself volunteering to help out at the event.

Just that very morning my dad had been guilting me about not doing anything to give back to the community, and since Teens’ Table is an organization that not only teaches kids cooking skills, but also donates the meals they prepare to local charities and homeless shelters, I guess it was a bit of Kismet my going to eat at Pages and Plums that day.

(Though it’s too bad I didn’t know in advance that there would be a murder committed at that very same fundraiser.)

You have been the driving force of other culinary cozy mysteries, what draws you to investigating murders?

I guess it’s the need to see that justice is done—my previous career as an attorney may have something to do with that.

And the inability to leave something as vitally important as discovering who was responsible for a brutal killing unanswered. (I know, I know: that’s a job for the police. But what can I say; I’ve never been good at letting others do something when I could try to take charge myself.)

As to why I keep running across dead bodies? I have no answer for that. But I can tell you it’s no fun when your friends start calling you an “angel of death” and when your nonna’s fellow parishioners start crossing the street whenever they see you coming….

What do you love about Santa Cruz, and how does that environment impact your sleuthing?

Santa Cruz not only boasts towering redwoods, terrific surfing, and a historic fisherman’s wharf jam-packed with fabulous Italian seafood restaurants, but it’s also home to the only remaining seaside amusement park on the West Coast. But more than that, the place has always seemed magical to me, with its rich history and vibrant visual and performing arts culture, not to mention all the fabulous farmers’ markets, bakeries, charcuteries, cheese makers, breweries, distilleries, and restaurants!

Having been born and raised in Santa Cruz, I have a definite advantage when it comes to getting folks to open up and talk to me—a necessity if you’re trying to solve a mystery in a small town. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m a fourth-generation Italian whose great-grandfather emigrated here back in the 1880s. So everyone knows my family name.

Tell us something your author doesn’t know about you.

I’m deathly afraid of spiders. (You’re not going to use that, are you, Leslie? Promise me you won’t use it!)

What would you like us to know about your author?

That—contrary to what a lot of people think—she’s not me. Okay, so we do share many things in common: our love of food and cooking, dogs, baseball, single-barrel bourbon, and snarky comebacks. And we’re both ex-lawyers who far prefer whipping up a mushroom omelette with Gruyère cheese to drafting a motion to compel discovery.

But we’re different, too. Leslie, for example, if faced with a dead body, would turn and high-tail it the other way as fast as her short little legs would carry her. Nor, I’m guessing, would she want to own a restaurant. Having to work nights, weekends, and holidays and be on your feet for hours on end with an aching back and burns all over your arms and hands?

No way could she possibly handle that.

(And now that I think about it, why the heck do I want to so? I guess it must simply be a part of my family genes.)

What are you up to next?

Hopefully taking a break from stumbling over dead bodies and solving crimes!

It would be marvelous to get to spend some quality time with my friends and family, sipping cocktails as I hang out in the backyard tending a rack of ribs and spatchcocked chicken on the barbecue.

Read an excerpt:

A Sense For Murder

If not for the clatter of my bicycle bouncing down the wooden planks of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, I felt certain that every tourist I whizzed past would have been startled by the loud rumblings emanating from my empty stomach.

I’d set off on my morning ride with only a cup of coffee for sustenance, and the effects of the initial caffeine buzz had now been replaced by a severe case of low blood sugar. As a result (notwithstanding the million-dollar view of the historic fisherman’s wharf stretching out from the sparkling beach and the iconic roller coaster rising up behind), the only thing on my mind at that moment was the prospect of biting into one of my father’s famous ricotta-and-mascarpone-filled cannoli.

I spotted Dad’s tall, stocky figure standing in front of Solari’s Restaurant as soon as I rounded the bend near the end of the wharf. He was turned toward me, waving, so I waved back, then quickly grabbed hold of my handlebars as I hit a nasty bump in the road. Once closer, however, I realized he wasn’t waving at me.

He hadn’t even noticed my arrival. Rather, he was shouting and gesticulating at a form sprawled on the sidewalk at the corner of the building. ‘Why the hell do you insist on camping out here?’ I heard him yell as I approached. ‘You and your kind are driving away my business!’

Wheeling up to the front entrance, I clipped out of my pedals and leaned my red-and-white road bike against the restaurant’s whitewashed wood siding. Through the neon Budweiser and Amstel Light signs hanging in the window above, I could see a table of early lunchers chowing down on plates of crab salads and linguine.

‘Hey, Dad. What’s going on?’

‘Sally.’ He turned to me with a frown. ‘I didn’t hear you ride up.’

‘Probably because you were making quite a bit of racket yourself.’ The person at his feet – a thin, gray-haired man wrapped in a dark green sleeping bag – pushed himself to an upright position and regarded the two of us with dull eyes. A fat seagull pecked at a discarded French fry not three feet from where he sat.

Dad returned the man’s gaze with an angry stare. ‘I’ve been trying for five full minutes to get this guy to move his sorry ass away from my restaurant, but he pretends like he doesn’t even hear me. Maybe I should just call the cops on you,’ he said to the cocooned man, ‘and let them deal with it.’

‘Maybe if you tried treating him like a human being, your powers of persuasion would be a little more effective,’ I responded. ‘I mean, really: “you and your kind”?’

But my father merely shook his head and turned to walk back inside Solari’s, clearly now annoyed not only with the guy in the sleeping bag but also his only daughter.

*** Excerpt from A Sense For Murder by Leslie Karst. Copyright 2023 by Leslie Karst. Reproduced with permission from Leslie Karst. All rights reserved.

Leslie Karst, author of A Sense for Murder

A Sense for Murder Leslie Karst is the author of the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari mystery series and Justice is Served: A Tale of Scallops, the Law, and Cooking for RBG.

After years waiting tables and singing in a new wave rock band, she decided she was ready for a “real” job and ended up at Stanford Law School. It was during her career as an attorney that Leslie rediscovered her youthful passion for food and cooking and once more returned to school—this time to earn a degree in culinary arts.

Now retired from the law, Leslie spends her time cooking, cycling, gardening, observing cocktail hour promptly at five o’clock, and of course writing. She and her wife split their time between Santa Cruz, California, and Hilo, Hawai‘i.  

To learn more about Leslie, click on any of the follwing links: Website, Facebook, BookBub, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter

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A Sense of Murder

July 25 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

July 25 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – AUTHOR GUEST POST

July 26 – Novels Alive – REVIEW – SPOTLIGHT

July 26 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT

July 27 – The Mystery of Writing – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

July 27 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

July 28 – fundinmental – SPOTLIGHT

July 28 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR GUEST POST

July 29 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

July 29 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT


July 31 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

August 1 – Cozy Up With Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

August 1 – Carstairs Considers – REVIEW

August 2 – Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder – REVIEW, RECIPE

August 2 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

August 3 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee – SPOTLIGHT

Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell

Amazon #1 bestseller

All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio.

Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator

Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery



The Foundation of Plota Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook.


Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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