Killer Nashville 2019 Silver Falchion Nominee

Bar None

By Cathi Stoler

Clay Stafford Books
ISBN 978-0978842727
Publication Date: October 16, 2018

Bar None: A Murder On The Rocks Mystery

Review by Joy Gorence

Events beyond Jude Dillane’s control begin to unfold when Sully, her landlord, asks her to give his key to his fellow worker from the Food Coop. Soon, Jude, a single woman and the part-owner of the Corner Lounge on the Lower East Side, finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. With an evenly-paced narrative, the reader becomes engrossed in the unsettling events that follow. Although the character development leaves some unanswered questions, the setting helps to enhance the mystery that evolves.

Clearly from the opening line, “Somebody had to do it and that somebody was me,” Jude is the narrator and protagonist. In her normal routine of cutting fruit for the drinks that will be needed later, the reader follows Jude as she prepares for the “five to seven Corner Lounge Social Hour.” Her helper and landlord, Sully, arrives late from his volunteer job at the Big City Food Coop. This ex-marine seems to have a special spot in Jude’s life, but the reader never discovers the reason for their closeness. Stoler also never provides the background for Jude’s other relationships beyond cursory descriptions, yet this does not hinder the pacing of the novel or the emotional bond that the reader develops with Jude.

Stoler’s effective use of dialogue moves the plot along from one day to the next. There never seems to be a gap in the setting of the novel. Seamlessly, the background for the mystery is revealed in the conversations between characters as Jude begins to uncover the mystery and get closer to revealing the identity of the murderer. As a true heroine and modern-day woman, Jude seems to be able to balance work, play, and investigation—even if, at a point, she thinks, “Fatigue swooped over me like an eagle zooming in on an unsuspecting field mouse.”

Throughout the novel, Stoler masterfully keeps the reader on the edge of discovery.  It is not until the end, however, the reader learns the identity of the murderer—but will it be too late?

In addition to creating a compelling mystery, Stoler has crafted a novel full of good food and drink. She reveals the recipes for some of the menu items offered at the Corner Lounge. A satisfying ending for all.

Joy Gorence is new to Killer Nashville.  She is an author, world-traveler, English professor (ret.), and avid reader.  Originally from Long Island, NY she now lives in South Florida with her husband, Bill and their two pampered kitties.