When readers encounter the perfect match between book and author, they can immediately feel the palpable connection. Such is the case with Leslie Karst and her new series debut, Molten Death. This was a novel that Karst was destined to write, and all the pieces of her inimitable style fall into place. There are the LGBTQ+ characters and themes, there’s the cozy, amateur investigation, there is the hints of humor blended with poignancy, and of course, the ever-present culinary delights. But perhaps strongest in this new novel is the pull of the Hawaiian setting. Leslie Karst’s bond and reverence for her beloved Hawai’i is evident from the first pages of Molten Death.

For crime fiction fans—or fanatics—there are few things as exciting as that moment when the perfect crime or unexpected death appears on the page. In Molten Death, Valerie Corbin breaks off from her hiking group and ever so briefly catches a glimpse of a person being covered by molten lava. How do you convince everyone that a suspicious death has occurred when there is no evidence at all—not even a body.

This trip to Hilo, Hawai’i was supposed to be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience for Valerie and her wife, Kristen—so an investigation into a possible murder was hardly on the menu. Leslie Karst—author of the popular Sally Solari Culinary Mystery series—knows that loyalty to characters is a hallmark of the cozy sub-genre. To help make this central couple interesting and investible, she builds a plethora of challenges into this relationship and allows the unfolding drama of the crime situation to serve as an impetus for their development—both individually and as a partnership.

Having the women stay with a local Hawaiian friend, Isaac, gives Karst a chance to allow the landscape and culture of the island to shine. Isaac speaks in a pidgin dialect—that can be at times challenging to read—which ultimately adds a flair of verisimilitude to the novel. (There is a glossary included to help when needed.) Fans who have followed Leslie Karst’s career and know of her culinary background (she even wrote a memoir about her time cooking for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) will not be surprised at how prevalent the local cuisine is throughout this novel—including recipes at the end of the book.

All of this only enhances Molten Death. The centerpiece is still a very interesting and realistic investigation into an unexplained death. Karst allows the amateur research and inquiry to proceed in logical fashion, giving the reader all the clues they need to play along. This blending of a really strong mystery with a fascinating pair of lead characters makes for an enjoyable reading experience.

Since Molten Death—the first Orchid Isle Mystery—is clearly the start of a new series, it’s no surprise that by the end of the novel, this vacation to Hawai’i is about to become a bit more of a permanent situation. That’s great news for fans of cozy mystery series and of Leslie Karst in particular. Hop on board with Molten Death and allow Leslie Karst to whisk you away to the tropical paradise of Hawai’i.

BUY LINKS: Molten Death by Leslie Karst

Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.