Quarter to Midnight
Grade : B

Benjamin Franklin is known for many things, among them the pithy bits of wisdom he put into his renowned Poor Richard’s Almanac.  “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead”, is the one interpreted literally by the villain in Quarter to Midnight, a fact which winds up costing over fifteen people their lives.

Full disclosure: I haven’t read Karen Rose since her 2016 release Alone in the Dark, which I didn’t enjoy. Ms. Rose writes interconnected books and I was tired of trying to keep track of who was who and what happened to them when, and the books are long (often over 400 pages), so there’s a lot of whos and whens to remember. However, my friend Shannon loved the author’s two most recent releases and reading her reviews made me remember what I enjoyed about her work. I decided that since Quarter to Midnight is the first book in Rose’s New Orleans saga, it would be a good place to make a fresh start – although to be honest it didn’t read that way. I kept feeling as though I should be familiar with Burke and some of the other characters who appear here and it is entirely possible that those who have read the writer’s entire back list will be. My lack of knowledge didn’t keep from appreciating this novel though.

When Molly Sutton finished her time in the Marines, she happily became a police officer. During her time on the force she had a fiancé, lived close to her sister Molly and beloved niece, got to spend time with her dad – and then a tragedy blew all of that apart. Her sister and neice relocate to New Orleans, where Molly joins the private investigative agency run by the man she had served under while in the armed forces, Burke Broussard. Burke also left the service to become a cop, only to leave the NOPD disillusioned by the corruption he saw there.

Gabe Hebert is a celebrity chef who won a television cooking competition and is now the owner of a highly successful restaurant in the French Quarter. His life is good but busy until the night his father dies, an alleged suicide caused by alcohol, cocaine and a bullet to the head. Only Gabe’s dad was an AA success story who had never done drugs in his life. As a former NOPD officer, his dad’s death investigation should have been handled with thoroughness and compassion. Instead, it is clearly being done in a lackadaisical manner and Gabe is warned that if he challenges the results, the news will hear all about his dad’s alleged drug and alcohol problems. Gabe doesn’t care. Convinced his father was murdered, he orders a private autopsy and when the results confirm his suspicions, he turns to Burke, his dad’s former partner, to find the killer.

When Molly goes into Burke’s office to meet her new client, she is surprised to see Gabe. She’s a regular at his restaurant and has been secretly crushing on the hot chef since he first appeared on TV. Gabe is equally shocked to see Molly. He normally doesn’t pay much attention to the people who walk in and out of his eatery, but the buxom blonde beauty had caught his eye on her first visit and he’s made it a point to stop at her table to chat every time she’s come in since. He didn’t know she worked for Burke and he isn’t sure he wants her investigating this case. His dad had been a great cop, a guy who really knew his way around a gun and could handle himself in any situation. If the perpetrators could kill him, how much of a chance does Molly stand?

Quite a good one as it turns out. First, I’m just going to say- leave your suspension of disbelief at the front cover. This is a feel-good novel for people who enjoy stories about righteous vigilantes winning the day, and pesky things like laws, facts and probabilities don’t enter into the equation. The author’s emphasis is on the entertainment factor and if you’re a fan of action/adventure/romance stories this book scores pretty high on that scale. Molly, Gabe and company – and there is a lot of company – are delightful people you will be happy to root for. Gabe is a practical, down to earth sort who is determined to get justice for his father. At first he comes across as a bit chauvinistic but he soon realizes that Molly is a tough cookie who knows what she’s doing and the desire and interest he’s always felt for her quickly turn to admiration and love as he spends time with her. One of the points that had me really rolling my eyes was the way Gabe insisting on being an active part of the investigation, which results in his showing off his own skills at shooting and beating up bad guys. He is easily as adept as any of the trained investigators/former military people on Burke’s team. Eh – I just went with it. Molly has a complicated history, which we learn a lot about, and really needs someone like Gabe, who is primarily light and sunshine. It’s clear he’s going to be great at chasing her shadows away and helping her deal with the trauma of the past. On the flip side, she’s able to help him process the darker emotions caused by his dad’s murder. They make a good couple and I bought their love story as much as I did anything else about the book.

I wouldn’t call Rose’s books graphic, but there is a lot of violence in them. This particular volume includes the dismemberment of a body, a ton of shootings and at least one strangulation. The author doesn’t linger on the details but there is a high death toll.

For a long novel this made for a quick read. I was fascinated enough by the mystery that I kept turning the pages and savoring the story. All the good guys here are really likeable; I don’t have the page space to name all the secondary characters but I especially adored everyone in Xavier’s crew. That kid was super lucky regarding the people in his life.

My main quibbles with the tale are the sheer unbelievability of it and the endless villain viewpoint. A couple of pages with that guy went a long way and I didn’t feel we needed to spend as much time with him as we do. Folks who take issue with vigilante justice should note that that is pretty much what this story is. There is police involvement but this is a bunch of P.I.s bringing down the bad guys.

I liked Quarter to Midnight and think Rose’s fans will be very pleased with this latest offering. Since this is a start of a new series, I would also recommend it to fans of detailed action/adventure romance.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Maggie Boyd

Grade: B

Book Type: Romantic Suspense

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : September 11, 2022

Publication Date: 08/2022

Review Tags: New Orleans

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Maggie Boyd

I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.
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