Books & Beyond

Sweet Karoline by Catherine Astolfo @cathyastolfo

Posted on: October 24, 2013

When I met Giulio, he’d just arrived ‘off the boat’ as our classmates would say. They were proud and superior now that the majority of them were generations away from their own ancestors’ immigration. Despite his chronological age, Giulio was immediately placed in the lowest grade the school could get away with. He was tiny-boned and thin, very unlike most of his Italian paisans. Feminine and soft voiced, he fit in with no one.

Karoline had instantly adopted him. Their own little weird unit of two had immediately embraced me.

At first it was difficult to understand Giulio. Over time, however, I was able to relate to his gestures, recognize a few words and interpret him as only friends can. Giulio embraced his new language slowly and never fully spoke without a thick and stumbling accent. This may have explained Mrs. St. James’s erroneous judgment that he was slow.

Karoline, on the other hand, was almost instantly fluent in all three languages—Polish, Italian and English—as though born to absorb words.

My mother was delighted with my friends. A fierce and loyal Canadian who’d been forcibly transported to the United States by the man she loved, she embraced differences in culture and race with a showy, dedicated flare. She became decidedly more African in her roots, which I found embarrassing. She invited Karoline and Giulio over to savor her native meals and desserts, recipes handed down from ancestors so distant that I doubted they were even hers.

Struggling to be so accepting and open made her look pathetic and false in my eyes. I was appalled that my parents were mixed race, leaving me in a limbo between the two. Not only that, they’d moved me to a town where the vast majority of people were white. While cultural differences piqued my mother’s interest, I was at the opposite end of the spectrum. I wished I could just be like everybody else. White, ordinary-looking. Unworthy of stares, adoration, curiosity and hatred.

The kids at school stayed far away from us in the cafeteria at lunch while Giulio munched his sausages and capicolli. Years later, when garlic became the rage, I would remember the sweet salty smell of Giulio and laugh to myself as the spice was ‘discovered’ by the rest of our acquaintances.

Once we reached high school, Giulio confided in Karoline and me that he was gay. We were the only ones he told. Giulio was our friend, our mentor, our guide and now he was a safety net all in one. He promised that, should he or we not find our true loves, we would live together into old age. But that was before our trip to Italy.

Dear Diary,

Maybe it’s their inheritance and upbringing that has caused them to remain so childlike. One a pampered little boy, the only son, surrounded by doting females who did everything for him, the other a contradiction of appearance and concept.


If I knew what I know now, would I have searched so hard for the truth?

Anne Williams says she killed her best friend, Karoline. But did she? Or is there more to Karoline’s mysterious death than meets the eye?

Anne embarks on a compelling journey to discover her past and exposes an unusual history, horrific crimes and appalling betrayals. Through unexpected turns and revelations, Anne learns about love, family and who she really is. Can she survive the truth?

Editorial Reviews

“A deliciously vibrant portrait that realistically muddles good and evil.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Astolfo’s wonderful first sentence in Sweet Karoline explodes on the page and resonates right to the end of this twisting examination of dangerous minds. Never have I encountered a narrative voice that alternates more deftly between alienating and enticing.” —Mel Bradshaw, author of Fire On The Runway

“A deliciously twisted story about the perplexing power of adult female relationships. By turns scathingly funny and darkly insightful, Sweet Karoline is a hedonistic journey with all the right ingredients: lust, betrayal, true love and mystery. Grab a glass of wine and have the bottle handy. A compelling read from the start through to the surprising end.” —Robin Spano, author of Death’s Last Run

“In Catherine Astolfo’s chilling new novel Sweet Karoline, things aren’t always as they seem. Anne, the multifaceted anti-heroine in this noir tale takes a fateful journey into her forgotten past, uncovering the painful roots of her childhood. While furrowing for answers, a mystery unfolds, truths swirl to the surface, a heinous murder occurs. Who’s the killer? Caught in a tangled web of greed, lies and deceit Anne must come to terms with her past, present and future, and the bleak realization that those we hold close may be the last ones to trust. Compelling, visually descriptive, deftly delivered…Catherine Astolfo’s got the goods!” —Douglas Wickard, author of A Perfect Husband

“Sweet Karoline is a multi-layered mystery, where nothing is as it seems. The story grips you on page one and leads you through a maze of history, twisted relationships, and ultimately the darkness of the human mind.” —Liz Bugg, author of Oranges and Lemons

“In Sweet Karoline, Astolfo has created a daring hybrid mystery that combines elements of romance, history, and suspense in a carefully crafted story that keeps you guessing to the very end. Astolfo explores new boundaries as she extends her reach beyond the cozy mystery in this psychological exploration of the mind of a killer. A unique exploration of guilt and revenge.” —Michael J. McCann, author of The Fregoli Delusion

“The clever plot twists in Sweet Karoline will enrapture you from page one through the last paragraphs of this fast-paced modern mystery. Author Catherine Astolfo exhibits a strikingly perceptive gift for believable dialogue and rich character development. Her dry wit and colorful descriptions will have you howling in laughter at points, but in tears at others as she digs deep into the themes of guilt, race, and relationships. The powers of love and redemption are strong, but does the heart of an Ice Queen ever really melt? Enjoy the romp from Los Angeles, through Canada, to a priceless Italian rendezvous—all in the pages of Sweet Karoline, where long-buried secrets lie.” —Lisa Pell, award-winning author of Who’s Your Daddy, Baby?

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre –  Psychological Suspense

Rating – 18+

Connect with Catherine Astolfo on Facebook  & Twitter



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