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Wednesday 3 August 2022

‘Quarter to Midnight’ by Karen Rose

Published by Headline,
4 August 2022.
ISBN: 978-0-59333629-8 (HB)

One of the biggest challenges a prolific crime writer must face is surely how to maintain momentum and keep things fresh, especially when regular readers have come to expect, even require, certain factors to keep reappearing. Karen Rose is now on her eighth mini-series, made up of thirty-plus hefty titles, and she rises to that challenge effortlessly and meets it head-on.

After exploring the darker side of the USA’s north-east, mid-west and western coast in earlier series, for Quarter to Midnight she has moved to the deep south. New Orleans has a unique personality, especially in the sultry heat of summer. In this opening sally in the new series the police aren’t necessarily the good guys, so instead, the focus is on a firm of private detectives run by ex-cop Burke Broussard. The firm is hired by Gabe Hebert, chef and restaurateur, who is convinced that his father Rocky’s apparent suicide was actually murder, covered up and side-lined by corrupt police officers. Burke puts his ace investigator Molly Sutton in charge of the case, and as is Karen Rose’s way, an instant and fiery attraction ignites between her and Gabe.

When Gabe and Molly discover documentation which points to a mystery in his father’s past, the action gathers pace. Meanwhile, five hours away in Texas, medical student Xavier Morrow is following instructions left for him by a recently dead benefactor, and almost coming to grief when things don’t go according to plan. The benefactor is Gabe’s father, of course, but their relationship wasn’t quite what Gabe feared. As a small child, Xavier was the only witness to a crime during Hurricane Katrina, which Rocky was still investigating twenty years later – and he’s in danger.

What ensues is a pattern which will resonate with Karen Rose’s many fans: characters you’d recognize instantly if they walked into your home, some you warm to, others you’d avoid at all costs, including a bad guy who becomes more evil as the body count rises; a whole range of mountains for the good guys to climb, and a growing family feel to the relationships between them; a couple of edge-of-the-seat car chases, and some episodes of sex out of everyone’s fantasies; and a ninety-page will-they-won’t-they denouement at breakneck speed that will keep you up all night because you simply have to know how it ends. And a whole lot more besides.  

Among the leading players, you’ll adore Gabe and want to eat at his restaurant, and you’ll be desperate for Xavier to win through. In the supporting cast you’ll cheer for feisty Willa Mae and want to box Carlos’s ears, then hug him. You won’t guess who unexpectedly comes to the rescue near the end, and you’ll want to yell a warning to everyone who gets in Lamont and Jackass’s way. And you’ll be relieved to find the police aren’t all corrupt but wonder if you can ever trust a high-ranking officer again.  

It all happens at festival time at the steamy height of the New Orleans summer, which comes to life almost as vividly as the characters. And without spoilers, there’s no more to say – except, Karen Rose has done what she always does, and she’s done it with considerable style.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Karen Rose was born 29 July 1964 at Baltimore, Maryland USA. She was educated at the University of Maryland. She met her husband, Martin, on a blind date when they were seventeen and after they both graduated from the University of Maryland, (Karen with a degree in Chemical Engineering) they moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Karen worked as an engineer for a large consumer goods company, earning two patents, but as Karen says, “scenes were roiling in my head and I couldn't concentrate on my job, so I started writing them down. I started out writing for fun, and soon found I was hooked.” Her debut suspense novel, Don't Tell, was released in July 2003. . Since then, she has published twenty-four more novels. Karen lives in Florida with her husband of twenty years and their children. When she's not writing, she enjoys travelling, karate and though not a popular Florida pastime, skiing.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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