Book Review: Quarter to Midnight by Karen Rose

Karen Rose's Quarter to Midnight is the first book in a new series set in New Orleans and featuring a tough team of high-end private investigators who are after justice—no matter what. Here's Janet Webb's review!

Put your hands together, chère, for the first book in a new series, set in the Big Easy. 

Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 10:15 P.M. The story opens with a bang. Rocky Hebert suspects his old acquaintance, a doctor, is in trouble, and he’s right. Rocky smelled death before “he withdrew a disposable glove from his pocket and twisted the doorknob.” It’s a grisly sight—the doctor’s throat is slit and his gut eviscerated, death by overkill. Rocky throws up in the rosebushes outside.

He spat again, wishing for a strong drink. Wishing he hadn’t finally gotten sober. Wishing he’d done so many things differently.

 

He straightened with a muted groan, looking around to be sure he wasn’t about to meet the same end as the poor doctor.

Given Rocky’s fears, his reaction is problematic: “I should call the police. But not here. And definitely not from my own phone.” He’s a man with secrets. 

The Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana MONDAY, JULY 28, 9:05 A.M.

Meet Molly Sutton, hanging out on a battered but beautifully carved desk that is just right for the art deco décor in her boss’s lobby. 

Her boss, Burke Broussard, liked nice things and he loved New Orleans. Their office space on the Quarter’s edge was a lot more expensive than an equivalent space in the burbs, but Burke swore it was worth it for the foot traffic alone. Their full roster of well-to-do clients seeking “Highly Qualified & Discreet Private Investigators”—as their business cards said in a very dignified script—seemed to prove him right.

Molly is a former Marine whose commanding officer was Broussard. She has personal reasons for not trusting cops as does Broussard, who left New Orleans PD to set up a private investigative service for people who couldn’t find justice elsewhere. 

There are no coincidences in Quarter to Midnight. Rocky Hebert is also NOPD and he distrusts some of his colleagues. Hebert and Broussard are best friends. Rocky’s only child, rising star chef Gabriel (Gabe) Hebert, ruled out police-work as a career option because of the toll it took on his father. Tragically, Gabe’s father dies by his own hand, drunk and in despair, but Gabe’s not buying it. He feels the investigation into the so-called suicide was deliberately botched by his former captain, Gabe knows his dad stumbled onto a truth that someone wants silenced.

Gabe goes to Burke Broussard and begs him to find out the truth. Broussard assigns Molly, his top operative, to get to the bottom of what happened to Rocky. Molly can’t say no—she owes Burke Broussard a debt she can’t possibly repay for rescuing her and her family from an untenable situation. However, chef Gabe and his stellar chocolate cake are not unknown to her… as an admiring customer only.  Now he’ll be under her protection. How will that work?

Molly’s mind was too jumpy for there to be any peace.

 

Gabriel Hebert. The two of them were going to be joined at the hip until she figured out who’d killed his father. Because it was beating all out of rhythm. 

Molly consoles herself by considering the fab meals Gabe might whip up while he’s under wraps. Her conversations with Gabe about his dad and how she plans to investigate are rather awkward, especially since Gabe wants to be involved. Could a cold case in Rocky’s past be the reason he was murdered? He takes affront at any suggestion that his father might have been part of the problem. Molly tries to sensitively thread the needle.

“I’m also going to need access to your father’s financial accounts.”

 

He frowned at that, visibly bristling. “What do you expect to find?”

 

“I don’t know. But we say ‘follow the money’ for a reason.”

 

His jaw went rigid. “You think my dad was on the take?”

 

“Nope. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t check.”

 

“I understand,” he said stiffly. “And I’ll come with you when you do those checks. No more trying to shove me in a half-assed kitchen so I can make your dinner.”

 

“Burke says you can come, so yes. I’d prefer you choose another bodyguard, but if you don’t get in my way, we can make this work. But,” she added as gently as she could, “I may find things that you don’t want to see. That happens sometimes when someone dies suddenly.”

Romantic thrillers often pair up a larger-than-life former operative (male) with an intelligent, intriguing civilian (female). It’s a treat to have Karen Rose shake up the formula. Gabe is no damsel in distress, but he doesn’t have the military and detective chops that make Molly a lethal weapon. 

Movies like The Big Easy color our views of policing in New Orleans. Quarter to Midnight fits right into that template. It showcases the pulsating, vibrant city of New Orleans while it meticulously unspooled a fraudulent scheme, laced with deviousness and cruelty, that started back when the city was devastated by floods in Hurricane Katrina.  It’s a tale as old as time: “Good cops. Bad cops. Only one will win.” Karen Rose’s special seasoning is corruption and murder. Her first New Orleans novel is a winner and readers will want more.

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