MURDER FROM SCRATCH
Crooked Lane Books (2019)
Reviewed by M.J. Lalli for Reader Views (01/2020)
“Murder from Scratch” is the fourth book in the Sally Solari mystery series by Leslie Karst. . The book is nicely plotted with good character development as Sally, the protagonist, and Evelyn, her sidekick, move through Santa Cruz investigating the murder of Evelyn’s Aunt Jackie. There are a few suspects including Max–a drug-addicted maître d’ who runs a prestigious restaurant in town; Rachel–the owner of a pop-up restaurant who has stolen several of Jackie’s recipes; and Stan, Jackie’s ex-husband.
Though this is the fourth book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel. There are a few twists in this book that differentiate it from its predecessors. Evelyn, Sally’s cousin, moves in temporarily after Evelyn’s mother, Jackie, is murdered. The two quickly form an easy, supportive friendship as they listen to each other’s problems and work together to find a murderer, despite the police thinking Jackie committed suicide. Although Evelyn is blind, she is presented as a well‐developed character, not just a sympathy foil—she has hopes, dreams, and goals just like any sighted‐person would.
The book is smoothly written, and the plot develops naturally as the two protagonists explore the restaurant world in Santa Cruz, meet people, and uncover clues. There are a few potential suspects that we meet throughout the book, but all of them could have been better fleshed out to make them more believable. The reader never feels that they know “who done it,” nor do they feel surprised when the murderer is revealed. At times the book feels like it is on auto‐pilot, and the author is running out of ideas for Santa Cruz. Perhaps it’s time for Sally to take a trip‐‐even Jessica left Cabot Cove on occasion! The climax, where the murderer tries to kill again, is well done and suspenseful, and the book ends by pulling the lose threads together.
Overall I found “Murder from Scratch” by Leslie Karst to be a book that readers of cozy, food‐themed murder mysteries would enjoy.