Like my amateur sleuth, Sally Solari, I too was once an attorney who’d stare out my office window fantasizing about food and cooking when I should have been busy churning out those endless billable hours. But unlike Sally, my family didn’t own restaurants—nor would I have wanted to make that switch in any case. Two years waiting tables after college, and then later working the hot line during cooking school, had taught me just how exhausting and stressful a career in the food business can be.
Writing, however, was something I did enjoy. Sure, drafting legal memos, motions, and appeals all day long could be mind-numbingly dull and tedious. But writing fiction—especially a story about food—now, that would be fun.
But what sort of fiction? I’d been a fan of mysteries since my teenage years, when my mom handed me an Agatha Christie she’d just finished (Nemesis, I remember it was, because I had to ask her what the word meant). So why not combine my love of the culinary arts with crime fiction and write a food-themed mystery novel?
My town, Santa Cruz, California—once home to Italian fishermen, farmers, and retirees—was by now teeming with punks, hipsters and urban professionals, and the food movement had descended full-force upon the surprised old-timers. As I witnessed the advent of this “foodie” revolution and its effects on our sleepy beach town, it occurred to me that the juxtaposition of these two cultures would make for a terrific backdrop to a mystery story. What would happen if a local Santa Cruz gal suddenly found herself caught between the world of her family’s traditional, old-school Italian restaurant, and that of the newly-arrived, politically-correct food activists?
Thus was born the Sally Solari culinary mystery series.
I should add that, although my mysteries have food, cooking, and restaurants as their primary focus, there’s a secondary theme to each of the books in the series: one of the human senses. The first, Dying for a Taste, concerns (obviously) the sense of taste, and the most recent, A Measure of Murder, delves into the sense of hearing—more specifically, choral music.
As with my character, Sally, one of my own favorite musical compositions is the sublime Mozart Requiem. But in addition, the piece seems tailor-made for a mystery novel, as the Requiem itself is surrounded by secrets and mystery: who commissioned it, who completed it after Mozart died, which parts were composed by whom. So, truly, how could I resist?
I hope you enjoy reading the Sally Solari mysteries as much as I enjoy writing them.
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. She now writes the Sally Solari Mysteries (Dying for a Taste, A Measure of Murder), a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts.
Synopsis of A Measure of Murder:
Sally Solari is busy juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping Javier plan the autumn menu for the restaurant she’s just inherited, Gauguin. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins her ex-boyfriend Eric’s chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition: the Mozart Requiem. But then, 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 mixed in 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 right as 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?
In a stew of suspects and restaurateurs, trouble boils over in the second in Leslie Karst’s tasty and tantalizing Sally Solari mystery series, A Measure of Murder.