Dying for a Taste By Leslie Karst: Review/Interview/Giveaway

Apr 23, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

This week we are reviewing Leslie Karst’s new food mystery Dying for a Taste. We also have an interesting interview with Leslie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of this book, along with a link to purchase it where a portion goes to help support KRL, and a link to buy it from Amazon.

Dying for a Taste by Leslie Karst
Review by Sandra Murphy

Solari’s Italian restaurant is an old-fashioned kind of place with fried zucchini appetizers, spaghetti carbonara entrees, men in the kitchen to make the dishes, and women in the front of the house to soothe cranky diners, make the schedules and balance the register at the end of the night.

Sally breaks tradition and goes to law school instead of working in the restaurant like she did growing up. When her mother dies, though, her dad needs help. There’s not a lot of choice between the law firm’s non-stop schedule and emphasis on billable hours and helping family. After all, it’s just for a while. book

A while turns into a longer stay than planned, of course, but since she’s not sure what’s next, it’s okay for now. She’s got bike rides for exercise and calming, wine, and her ex-boyfriend Eric, a district attorney, who’s a better friend, for company.

Aunt Letta, Dad’s sister, has always been a bit of a rebel. She’s in the restaurant business too but with her own
place and its personality is very different than Solari’s. When Sally gets a call from Eric breaking the news that Letta has been murdered at her restaurant, it upsets everything.Javier is sous chef for Letta. It was his knife that killed her. Only Javier and Letta had keys to the cabinet where the chef’s knives were kept. The police see it pretty much as solved. Letta knows Javier is an extremely loyal and gentle man, so she looks for other suspects.

While working in Letta’s office, she finds threatening letters from a foodie fanatic. Noah, the writer, says she should use eco-friendly sources for all her supplies but especially meats. The second letter is more threatening than the first.

Letta’s boyfriend, Tony, says they recently became engaged. There’s something weird going on between Javier and Tony. Sally thinks it’s because they both loved Letta, but it escalates into a shoving match at the meal following the funeral. It’s no surprise when Javier is arrested for murder.

It seems everybody has a secret and Letta had more than her share. There are people from her past popping up, love interests, family problems, the foodie fanatics, and more in the suspect pool. Since Sally inherits Letta’s restaurant, her name could be added as well.

This is the first in the new Sally Solari Mystery series. The characters are sharp, likable people you want to spend time with (well, maybe not Nonna, she’s a little scary, as all Italian grandmothers can be). Eric is a good friend to Sally, a difficult thing for ex-couples to pull off. There are enough twists and turns to make a scroodle look like a fettuccini noodle. Readers will figure out the killer’s identity with Sally so no shocker at the end, but a conclusion as satisfying as a tiramisu at the end of the meal.

Warning: Not only will the book make you hungry, it’s one of those where you know you have to get up the next morning, but you have to read “just one more chapter” again and again, until the end.

Throughout the book, everyone cooks and shares how it’s done, all without getting in the way of the storyline. At the back, find recipes for endive and leek gratin, linguine with clam sauce, Italian gravy (this is red sauce for pasta, not your basic brown or white gravy), and sautéed pork chops in apricot brandy sauce.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble and a Kindle. You can find several of Sandra’s short stories at Untreed Reads including her newest, “Arthur,” included in the anthology titled, Flash and Bang, available now. Look for Denali, in the anthology Dogs and Dragons.

Interview With Leslie Karst:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Leslie: I spent twenty years drafting legal briefs, research memos, and appeals as an attorney before I made the switch to mystery novels—which (no surprise here) are way more fun to write. But if you count the literary criticism term papers I did as an English literature undergraduate, I’ve been writing since age seventeen.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please share a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.

Leslie: I moved to Santa Cruz after high school to attend UCSC, and immediately fell in love with the town—-its mix of Italian fishing culture, seaside resort, academia, redwood forests, and hippies and hipsters. So it was the obvious choice for my setting when I decided to try my hand at writing mysteries.


Leslie Karst

Sally Solari is an ex-lawyer who, after losing her mother to cancer, reluctantly returns to the family fold to help her dad run his old-school Italian restaurant. She’s not yet forty and already experiencing hot-flashes, which may help explain her tendency towards sarcasm. But cycling and bourbon help.

KRL: Santa Cruz is my favorite place in the world! Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

Leslie: I like to think of Dying for a Taste as a fun beach read, but with underlying themes about family and the food movement, to give the story added depth. Rather like a decadent milk shake with a dash of protein powder and brewer’s yeast for extra flavor and nutrition.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Leslie: I like to start writing as soon as I’ve checked my email and read the newspaper, with a cup of coffee or two to power me through the morning. (Being retired from the law is a great plus in this regard.)

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Leslie: I absolutely have to outline. I once tried to go it as a “pantser,” but almost immediately found myself flailing about, the story floating around somewhere in the ether.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Leslie: I interview experts when I can (e.g., the police, restaurateurs, criminal attorneys—I did civil law); I read widely on the subject I’m writing about; I cook all the foods in my books; and—like everyone else—-do lots of Google searches.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Leslie: It took me a long time to get an offer of representation—-three-plus years and over 100 queries—-but once I found my wonderful agent, she landed me a publishing deal fairly quickly.

KRL: Future writing goals?

Leslie: Completing the Sally Solari Mystery series, each of which will concern one of the senses. In the second book, Sally joins a chorus singing the Mozart Requiem (which work is full of its own secrets and mysteries). But fear not—-the series will continue to feature food, the restaurants, and the recipes!

KRL: Writing heroes?

Leslie: In no particular order: Dorothy L. Sayers, James Joyce, M.F.K. Fisher, Lawrence Durrell, Sue Grafton, J.R.R. Tolkien, E.M. Forster, Michael Pollan, Julia Child, Frank Herbert, T.S. Eliot, John Donne (Can you tell I was an English lit. major?).

KRL: What else do you read?

Leslie: “Golden Age” mysteries, culinary and other modern mysteries, food writing, science fiction, literary fiction, science writing.

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Leslie: TV: The Sopranos, The West Wing, Frasier, Sherlock (with Benedict Cumberbatch); Star Trek: The Next Generation.book

Movies: True Stories (directed by David Byrne of Talking Heads); Ishtar (yes, I know its reputation, but if you’ve ever been a song-writer=—and I have—=it’s hilarious and spot-on); The Thin Man; The Wizard of Oz.

KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Leslie: Trust your heart and instinct, but also listen to others—-especially if more than one give the same critique. Most of all, persevere and don’t give up!

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Leslie: I was the lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for two different bands in my younger years—-a new-wave group called Enigma in the early ‘80s, and a country-rock band called Electric Range in the ‘90s.

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?

Leslie: website: www.lesliekarstauthor.com
twitter: @ljkarst
FB: www.facebook.com/lesliekarstauthor

Questions from the Reviewer:

KRL: It took you a few years to write the book. How much time was writing vs. tinkering/editing time?

Leslie: It took me a little over two years to write the first draft, but then another three to rewrite (edit, revise, and otherwise tweak) the manuscript. I then revised it again per suggestions by my new agent, and did even further revisions for my new editor at Crooked Lane Books. So it was actually more of a six-year process, all told.

KRL: Sally’s a former lawyer and trained chef, like you. Which do you like better? Or is writer the job you like best?

Leslie: I never loved being a lawyer, though I do very much appreciate the writing skills I acquired as a research and appellate attorney. But I would never want to work as a cook, either—-the hours are lousy and it’s a rigorous and exhausting job. I much prefer to throw small but fabulous dinner parties, and write books about food and cooking!

KRL: Left Coast Crime was your first mystery conference as a writer. Which of the people you met there put you in awe?

Leslie: One of the best things about the mystery-writing community is just how warm, friendly, and generous all of the authors are—from the newly-published to the grande dames (and grand hommes) of the genre. So awe didn’t really ever come into the picture. But I did have a swell time at the bar with some well-known authors who shall remain unnamed.

KRL: Will Sally visit Hawai’i? Why is it typed that way in your books vs. the common “Hawaii” we always see?

Leslie: The name Hawai’i has an ‘okina—a glottal stop, which resembles a left quotation mark—in the Hawaiian language, and that is the way it is commonly written within the State. I live half time in Hawai’i, and use the local spelling in my writing out of respect for its people and language.

KRL: Most importantly, you have a Jack Russell terrier. Will Sally get out of her no-pets apartment and get a dog?

Leslie: Will Mario (her dad) let her live in Letta’s house? And while we’re on the subject of companions, is there any hope for Sally and Eric to go beyond friends again?

Leslie: You’ll just have to read the second book to see what happens.

KRL: Why did you give Sally early hot flashes?

Leslie: I remember how often those “damn hot flashes” were the subject of conversation when my friends and I were all going through “the change” at the same time, and thought it would be an amusing literary device—and one that all women of a certain age would appreciate. It is slightly early for Sally (who’s not quite 40), but well within reason. I didn’t want to make her any older, because that would have put her dad and aunt at higher ages than I desired for the story.

KRL: Most publishing houses only go so far as e-books or paperback for a new author but you got a hardcover debut. Who did you have to kill?

Leslie: I have my terrific agent, Erin Niumata of Folio Literary Management, to thank for landing me the contract with Crooked Lane Books, as well as the folks at CLB for believing in their authors (many, newbies like me) enough to go for the real-deal hardcovers.

KRL: When’s the next book coming out?

Leslie: I just turned in the manuscript for the sequel, which is scheduled for release in February, 2017.

To enter to win a copy of Dying For a Taste, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “taste,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 30, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

If you use this link to purchase the book a portion will go to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:



  1. I love a new series by a new to me author

  2. What a great synopsis and interview! I like that both the heroine and Leslie were lawyers, in new fields! Thanks for the chance to win!

  3. This will definitely make me hungry… I enjoyed the interview; it’s always inspiring to discover things in common or how one rises above the trials and tribulations of publishing.
    Thanks, KRL!

  4. I Love your Mysteries & I would be thrilled if I won this great book, Thanks for this amazing chance.

  5. Exciting. A new writer and series to get to know. Loved the synopsis and the interview. I am hoping for an early start on a most promising read. Thank you for the heads up. The intro. And the chance to get sooner. Rather than later.

  6. The cover of cozies are so much fun — and this one even talks about food!!!

  7. Dying For a Taste sounds like a fun read. Thank you for this chance.

  8. You were in a band called Enigma? Enigma is one of my favorite words! I love that you have your character have hot flashes! This is something that a lot of readers can relate to including me!! Thanks for the chance to win this book!! lindaherold999@gmail.com

  9. Between the Italian family and the restaurant, this is a series I need to read!

  10. Congratulations, Leslie! Can’t wait to read this.

  11. Have added this to my TBR list. Can’t wait to read it.

  12. I love food mysteries and this has a bonus of recipes in it.

  13. Food and murder, what’s not to like? Great review and interview. Thanks for the chance to win.

  14. We have a winner!


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