Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Palette for Love and Murder by Saralyn Richard

Saralyn Richard writes murder mysteries with a twist. A Palette for Love and Murder, like the novels of my favorite mystery writer, Louise Penny, emphasizes finding the good behind the evil. Penny cites Leonard Cohen’s words “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” The first pages of A Palette for Love and Murder with their emphasis on the inner life of Detective Oliver Parrott and his wife show that this will be a novel that looks for light even in the midst of horrific acts of evil. 

Most mysteries don’t open with lines like these:
"Marriage had turned out to be more. More than taking vows and sipping champagne. More than a romantic cruise to exotic islands. More than sleeping in the warmth of a lover’s embrace. Tonight, Detective Oliver Parrott had another two a.m. wake-up call, but not the kind from the West Brandywine Police Station. His first thought had been of the stolen paintings he was investigating, but the punch in the kidneys had come from Parrott’s own true love.

            “No-o-oh, oh, no,” Tonya yelled, as she thrashed about in the bed next to him.”

Later after trying to console and help Tonya, Oliver suggests that Tonya voice her fears and she responds, “Some very bad things happened when I was in Afghanistan, Ollie.” Her fingers drew a pattern onto his bare chest. “Some things I could never tell you about.”

Oliver Parrott might wish he could spend his days helping his wife Tonya, a former Navy helicopter pilot, overcome her demons, but just as he did in Richard’s first novel, Murder in the One Percent, Oliver needs to solve a case. He’s a detective in a very wealthy, rural area, the Brandywine Valley, and the residents there expect crimes to be solved quickly. When paintings by nationally known local painter, Blake Allmond, are stolen, Parrott must be careful as he tries to determine what kind of person would steal art that would be almost impossible to sell.

As clues begin to emerge, Allmond is found violently murdered in his apartment in New York City. Blake Allmond’s life hid several dark secrets that might have an impact on why he died and on whether the art theft was connected to his death. Oliver Parrott has the inside track on finding the murderer, but the New York City police have little use for a small-town detective.

The pace of this mystery never lets up, yet the depth of the characters remains a clear focus. The fact that Oliver is an African-American working in a largely white, wealthy community is expertly plumbed yet is never used stereotypically or to make points. Oliver Parrott is a good, caring man readers will love following. Richard’s first novel was a delightful dive into evil among the privileged and powerful. In A Palette for Love and Murder, Richard’s prose is more nuanced, her characters are more complex, and Detective Parrott faces bigger challenges, yet her emphasis is still on telling a captivating story.

Summing it Up: Don’t take my word for it, William Kent Krueger, one of today’s finest mystery writers, calls it a winner and this reader agrees. If you’re looking for a page-turner with complicated characters, challenging ethical questions, and a clever mystery, read A Palette for Love and Murder.

Rating: 5 stars   
Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Chinese Carryout, Soul Food, Book Club
Publication date: February 15, 2020
What Others are Saying:
“In the Brandywine Valley, a delicate balance exists between the very wealthy and those who serve them, but the murder of a famous artist threatens this tenuous equilibrium. In her second outing featuring Detective Oliver Parrott, Saralyn Richard offers readers a compelling story of worlds in collision. A Palette For Love and Murder probes more than the mysteries of the art world and the motives for murder. Satisfied readers will discover that it also delicately plumbs the depths of love and the human heart. Another winner for Richard.” -- William Kent Krueger, author of This Tender Land

“Richard’s writing style is perfect for this genre. Her story lines are detailed and logical but still warm and exciting….Her characters are well developed and endearing….I hope there will be many more books in this series.”--Killer


  1. Many thanks for this wonderful review. I'm honored to be featured on Hungry for Good Books, my go-to source for reading recommendations!

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