Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst (Sally Solari #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, good mystery
Cons: Sub-plots a little too strong at times
The Bottom Line:
Fisherman in kelp
Ties to family restaurant
Gives us fun third book

Corpse in the Kelp

Despite being a California native, I haven’t spent as much time on the California central coast as I would like.  I’m not quite sure why Santa Cruz in particular has had such a pull for me, but at least I can visit it virtually with the Sally Solari series.  Death al Fresco is the latest in the series, and it’s another good book.

Since inheriting Gauguin from her aunt, she has attempted to leave her job at Solari’s, the restaurant her father owns.  Just when she thinks she is out, her father manages to pull her back in.  Right now, he has agreed to put on a dinner for the visiting dignitaries from Santa Cruz’s sister city in Italy.  It’s a great honor, and he needs her help.  How can she say no?

On top of all this, Sally and her friend Eric have signed up for an outdoor painting class visiting various locations round town on different Saturdays.  This particular Saturday, Sally has brought her dog along since they are painting at a dog friendly beach.  When Buster wanders off, she tries to stop him from playing with the kelp he’s found only to realize there is a body in the kelp.  The man was a regular at Solari’s, and as his last days are pieced together, the circumstances don’t look good for Sally and her family.  Can she figure out what happened?

As you might have guessed from my synopsis, this book has a lot going on with a couple of very strong sub-plots.  I did feel that slowed down the main mystery a little, but I enjoyed these sub-plots.  The mystery does have good suspects and kept me guessing until the very end.  Of course, everything made sense by the time we reached the ending.

One reason I didn’t mind the sub-plots so much is that they involved some of the series regulars.  As a result, they allow us to see them and get some great character development for them.  I enjoy this cast of characters, so that’s a very good thing.  Sally is a strong main character as well, and it is a pleasure to spend time with her.  The suspects hold their own with the series regulars.  I felt they were all real and viable suspects.

With a book set partially in two different restaurants, it’s no surprise that we get some recipes in the back.  They are more gourmet than what we find in many culinary cozies, as well.  After reading this book, you can try your hand at such recipes as Duck a la Lilikoi, Black Cod with Miso and Sake, and a spinach salad.

Sally is a wonderful host to Santa Cruz.  Truly, this is the next best thing to being there in person.  So if you are looking for a coastal get away, you’ll want to pick up Death al Fresco.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Great review! I just read the first book in the series and really enjoyed it. I wish I was in California...it's warm!

  2. Thanks for such a thorough and thoughtful (as always!) review, Mark!

  3. My brother lives in the Central Coastal region so I think I might enjoy books set in this area.