Book Review: Molten Death, Leslie Karst

Book Review: Molten DeathAn Orchid Isle Mystery, Leslie Karst

Book Review: Molten Death, An Orchid Isle Mystery, Leslie Karst

Mystery: Molten DeathAn Orchid Isle Mystery, Leslie Karst


I am disappointed that so far the travel gods have not granted my wish for a trip to Hawaii. So far, I have not come any closer than Los Angeles and reruns of the original Magnum P.I. 


Valerie Corbin and her wife have gone to Hawaii for several purposes. A retirement, a birthday, and a much needed getaway are the positives. The negative is the sudden death of Valerie’s beloved brother. Valerie is hoping that a change of scenery will help her resolve some of her grief. 


While staying with a friend, they decide to go see an eruption and the resulting lava flow. Valerie decided to walk closer to the lava to get a better view, where she saw much more than she had hoped for. A human leg, along with the sock, shoe, and the bottom of the leg were sticking out of the molten river. Before she could do anything, the rest of the leg was consumed.


There are multiple problems with seeing a partial body burned and covered by lava. The first one is immediate: how do you prove that you saw what you saw? The lava effectively covered and consumed the evidence. She had no video or photographs, no clothing samples or footprints, nothing but her recollection of a leg against the flames. Even her wife is skeptical.


So, Valerie decides to investigate. She is not a trained investigator, she has never worked for law enforcement, she knows almost no one in Hawaii–so of course she jumps in with both feet and begins asking questions and discovering leads.


This is not a groundbreaking book. It is essentially a cozy mystery: a lady nearing 60 getting in touch with her internal Jessica Fletcher is not unusual in the genre. Leslie Karst, though, treats her characters with affection, giving them agency and intelligence, compassion and a life beyond the investigation. The relationship between the couple is rich and complex, fraught with tensions that a couple facing major life changes and an unexpected and unwelcome murder investigation might face. It is full of love and forgiveness, arguments and reconciliations, and made me want to simultaneously cheer and shake my head in dismay. 


And, Hawaii! Karst paints images of a tropical island with volcanoes, beaches, oceans, deserts, geothermal vents and colorful people. Her food descriptions made my mouth water. The surfers rode waves through the pages, splashing me as they cut and changed directions. The sound of the coqui frogs, the heat of the flames, the pressing humidity, all pull the reader into a place of beauty and wonder.


Our thanks to the book publicist, who took a chance that I might like the book enough to write a review. It took awhile to get to it, but it was well worth the wait.

Book Review: Molten Death, An Orchid Isle Mystery, Leslie Karst

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