Death in a Pale Hue By Susan Van Kirk: Review/Giveaway

Jun 18, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook or print copy of Death in a Pale Hue, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

They say “You can never go home.” After nine years living and working in Chicago, thirty-year-old Jill Madison has returned to her hometown of Apple Grove. She’s been enticed by the idea of transforming the historic 1870s Lowry Building into an arts center bearing her mother’s name, The Adele Marsden Center for the Arts. She was hired to oversee renovations and manage the town’s new public facility that will contain an art gallery displaying many of Jill’s late mother’s works and an artist-in-residence program, house a weaving guild in the back room, and offer a wide range of classes by local experts and artisans to become an extraordinary place “to make art a transformative experience for so many kids in the area.” With help from her friend and office manager Louise Sandoval and intern Jordan Grant, Jill is putting the finishing touches on the facility, exhibits, and the center’s first regional exhibition: Home in the Heartland. They all know a lot is riding on the success of this event.

Death in a Pale Hue Earns 5/5 Paint Tubes…Clever & Engaging Cozy Gem!
“Ivan the Terrible” Truelove, president of the board of directors, is not happy, and neither is Jill since it may very well put her job in jeopardy. The local cops, which includes her older brother Detective Tom Madison, escorted her to a crime scene: the art center. A window was shattered and money is missing, the basement was accessed and the alarm failed, but the most upsetting is the Mother and Child sculpture, winner of the prestigious Brookington Award, has been stolen. The object has priceless sentimental value since it is one of her late mother’s pieces depicting a three-year-old Jill sitting on her mother’s lap. Tears don’t begin to describe Jill’s anguish. Her other brother Andy, who owns a local gift shop, agrees to put out feelers about any buzz surrounding the sale of the statue.

The upcoming exhibition at the art center is one way to placate the board’s concerns about Jill’s competency, especially from Mr. Ivan Truelove III, and she is serious about her “I will show them success” pledge. Jill starts her post-burglary day tackling an extensive “To-Do” list which includes dealing with the construction crew set to renovate the basement. But, things go from bad to worse to worst when the crew literally uncovers a skeleton buried in the basement. The board, especially “Ivan the Terrible,” isn’t going to be happy with this headline.

Brilliant Debut! Susan Van Kirk has a big hit with the premier book in her new Art Center Mystery series, and I am pleased she’s planning for three-books. The break-in and cold case sparked an intriguing investigation, the diverse characters included a strong, yet confidence-challenged lead, and the final shocking conclusion all provided a marvelous page-turner experience. The burglary and discovery of a body in the basement occur early in the story, my preference, putting at the forefront a complex investigation into who and why, a cold case with its surprising details, and the fear that a killer may still be among them. The main character’s personal connection to the victim allows for her reasonable involvement, but she does occasionally circumvent authorities (frustrating her brother and creating fodder for Ivan to use against her), and however valuable her insights and admirable her reasons to find the killer, peril isn’t far behind. There are so many puzzling connections, conflicting accounts, and circumstantial evidence that had my inner detective reeling, but despite the temptation, I didn’t fast forward to get all the answers, instead I embrace the intensity. It was an emotional journey and a study into memories that have had a decade to blur as well as a killer to keep themselves hidden. Rounding out the storylines there are the ins and outs of managing the art center, setting up the exhibition, dealing with the board and Ivan’s antics, and exploring various family dynamics and friendships now and then. Brilliant! Loved it!

Van Kirk’s writing style is entertaining with creative descriptions using color references to illustrate setting and emotions since Jill, herself, is an artist, a painter, and sees things in a variety of hues. It was intriguing how Van Kirk made the link between Jill’s experiences, emotions, and perspectives as they relate to and effect her own painting as well as others. Jill is a fascinating character whose bi-racial background and experiences provided a fascinating element for the character and her interactions with family, friends, and foes. The supporting characters all have an important role in Jill’s life and her growth through the story is admirable. Looking forward to more!

Be a Big Fan of Susan Van Kirk! Susan Van Kirk may have been a late-bloomer, “I began writing at age sixty ACL [After Children Left],” but her work is relevant and engaging. Her Endurance Mystery series, with which I have become a big fan, focuses on a retired English teacher Grace Kimball. After her publisher’s change in direction, she, too, took hers with A Death at Tippit Pond, first in her Sweet Iron Mystery starring Beth Russell, a genealogist and historical researcher. Having jumped into the deep end of the writing pool, she’s now released this new series following young artist Jill Madison. All well-worth reading!

Facebook—Susan Van Kirk

Website Susan Van Kirk
Twitter: @susan_vankirk

To enter to win either an ebook or print copy of Death in a Pale Hue, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Pale,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 25, 2022. US only, and must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win. BE SURE TO MENTION IF YOU WANT PRINT OR EBOOK. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week week.

You can use this link to purchase the book from Amazon or click here. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying year 2 of retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband of 26+ years.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Sounds different! In most cozies, Ivan the Terible would die by page 65. Count me in!

    • Ivan the Terrible is quite a character who is constantly on Jill Madison’s back about any bad publicity or anything going wrong at the art center. Jill and her manager, Louise, come up with imaginative ways to shred or destroy the emails he sends with his concerns. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. New author to me. Would really like to read. I prefer a print copy.

    • Thanks, Dianne. Glad to be a new author to you, but, hopefully, not for long. This is my second mystery series, so it’s just getting started.

  3. Death in a Pale Hue By Susan Van Kirk sounds like a great book to color your summer.

    • Ah, you’re getting in on the color fun, Nancy. Yes, since Jill Madison is an artist, she often looks at things and describes their hue. Even death, maybe!! (but it’s a cozy, so not much.)

  4. I can’t wait to read this book. It sounds great.

    • Thanks so much, Debbie. It’s getting great reviews, so I hope that helps people make up their minds.

  5. Print copy, please.
    Going home is never easy.
    sounds like a good read.

    • Thanks, Mary. Home is quite a magnet to my main character, Jill, but she hasn’t a clue what’s going to happen. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Thanks, Teresa. My publisher designed the cover, and the cool thing is that the paint in various places looks like it is on canvas. Quite a feat.

  6. We have a winner!


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