Cozy Mystery Review: Molten Death, by Leslie Karst

 Participating today in a Great Escapes blog tour for a Hawai'i-set cozy.

Molten Death (An Orchid Isle Mystery) by Leslie Karst


I appreciate the opportunity provided by the publisher and Great Escapes tour to review this mystery with a non-traditional sleuth! 

Molten Death (An Orchid Isle Mystery)  

Cozy Mystery 1st in Series 

Setting - the Big Island of Hawai‘i
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Severn House (April 2, 2024) Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1448312167 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1448312160
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CKWF5VWT

A glimpse of a quickly melting corpse at the foot of a volcano has amateur sleuth and food enthusiast Valerie Corbin shocked. But how can she investigate a murder, when there's no evidence the victim ever existed?

The first Orchid Isle cozy mystery, set in tropical Hilo, Hawai'i, introduces a fun and feisty LGBTQ+ couple who swap surfing lessons for sleuthing sessions!

Retired caterer Valerie Corbin and her wife Kristen have come to the Big Island of Hawai'i to treat themselves to a well-earned tropical vacation. After the recent loss of her brother, Valerie is in sore need of a distraction from her troubles and is looking forward to enjoying the delicious food and vibrant culture the state has to offer.

Early one morning, the couple and their friend - tattooed local boy, Isaac - set out to see an active lava flow, and Valerie is mesmerized by the shape-shifting mass of orange and red creeping over the field of black rock. Spying a boot in the distance, she strides off alone, pondering how it could have gotten there, only to realize to her horror that the boot is still attached to a leg - a leg which is slowly being engulfed by the hot lava.

Valerie's convinced a murder has been committed - but as she's the only witness to the now-vanished corpse, who's going to believe her?

Determined to prove what she saw, and get justice for the unknown victim, Valerie launches her own investigation. But, thrown into a Hawaiian culture far from the luaus and tiki bars of glossy tourist magazines, she soon begins to fear she may be the next one to end up entombed in shiny black rock . . .

The amiable characters, stunning backdrop and culinary delights make this the perfect cozy of fans who enjoy a tropical vacation with a twisty murder mystery and compelling Hawai'ian culture - paired with an added bonus of recipes of local Hawai'ian dishes!

My review:

First off, I just want to say how happy I am to see a cozy with a sleuth who's not only 60 years old, but lesbian! Cozies need more diversity, and definitely need more books that aren't about young women trying to pick a mate. Or maybe I'm just biased :)  

Now I have that off my chest, I can get on to the story. Which is a fun read, set in a place it's hard not to like--Hawai'i's Big Island (one of the 2 Hawai'ian islands I've visited, so I had fun with the map). The author shows her Island connections with a strong sense of place and use of the local Pidgin English. I admit to finding that latter not always working well for me, but appreciated how a character explains it--as a part of the culture, a way for locals to say they ARE locals, are part of the place.

The mystery is developed nicely along with the the characters and, especially, the relationship between Valerie and her wife, Kristen. Despite not being a local, Valerie manages to uncover and talk to number of plausible suspects, and things end with a bang. All in all, a satisfying mystery, and a series worth checking out!

Oh--and there are recipes, complete with interesting cultural tidbits. Because first, last, and always, Valerie is a foodie, though we can all hate her for being able to eat everything and not gain weight.


About Leslie Karst

In addition to Molten Death, Leslie Karst is the author of the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari mystery series and Justice is Served: A Tale of Scallops, the Law, and Cooking for RBG. After years waiting tables and singing in a new wave rock band, she decided she was ready for a “real” job and ended up at Stanford Law School. It was during her career as an attorney that Leslie rediscovered her youthful passion for food and cooking and once more returned to school—this time to earn a degree in culinary arts. Now retired from the law, Leslie spends her time cooking, cycling, gardening, observing cocktail hour promptly at five o’clock, and of course writing. She and her wife split their time between Santa Cruz, California and Hilo, Hawai‘i.

Author Links
Chicks on the Case
Mystery Lovers Kitchen

Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - 

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  1. I can't wait to read this. It's the next best thing to going to Hawaii myself.

    1. LOL. She does provide a good feel for the place, though we spent essentially no time in Hilo when we visited, so I can't speak to that.


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