Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Desolation Row” as Want to Read:
Desolation Row
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Desolation Row

(Austin Starr Mysteries #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A bride from Texas uses her CIA-honed skills to catch the real killer when her husband lands in a Canadian jail.

Amazon: "Remarkable dialog & subplots result in a wholly satisfying read. Packs a considerable punch. Readers will look forward to more of Kendall, with her formidable intellect, tart sense of humor, & resolute sense of justice. Unexpectedly magnificent."

Award wi
Paperback, 258 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Stairway Press (first published February 12th 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Desolation Row, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Desolation Row

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  81 ratings  ·  38 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Desolation Row
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
We are introduced to graduate student Austin Starr. It is 1968, during the Vietnam War era. She has moved to Toronto with her draft dodging husband David. Their friends consist of transplants from the United States who also oppose the war.

One evening, Austin stumbles across a dead body. The victim is her husband’s frenemy and incriminating information lands her husband in jail for the murder. With little or no help from the police for a thorough investigation, she must take matters in her own h
Kathy Harris
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance copy of this book, and finished it in two days. I loved the characters, the plot, the setting. Vivid. Realistic. Gripping. I'm not a huge mystery reader, but I think I get it now after reading Desolation Row. Can't wait for more from this author! --Kathy Lynn Harris, bestselling author of Blue Straggler and A Good Kind of Knowing
Viviane Crystal
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Austin Starr’s husband David is a “draft dodger” (term used for those without refused to fight in the Vietnam War) and has taken her to live in Canada where they are both pursuing academic careers. Austin isn’t completely happy there, is rather homesick and finds the culture in Canada very different from America. Things are about to get even more difficult for her and her husband. Even though they’re living outside America, they are still part of the protest movement which is actually picking up ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: patricia chavez
First of all I want to thank Goodreads and Kay Kendall for chosing me for this book in the contest I am very thankful for being able to read stories from different authors. At first it was hard to read this story as it wasn't making much sense to me even though I knew what the story was about however by chapter 5 the story started taking off and then it was a very good story. I have mixed feelings what the story is actually about as to whether or not a person should avoid the draft, however from ...more
Richard Sharp
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Kay Kendall’s Desolation Row is a fast-paced murder mystery that engages the reader. While filled with popular culture references and solidly grounded in the late Sixties, it accessible to readers of all ages. Those more familiar with the period may find an extra smile or two, but setting will not be an obstacle to the reader’s enjoyment.

I very much enjoyed that the Kendall based her plot and solution to the murder on the lead protagonist’s persistence rather than a brilliant Sherlock Holmes obs
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: signed-by-author
I was attracted to this book by the cover. It appeared to be a girl resembling Janis Joplin. While Janis was not in the book, it was written in her era. The days of a war no one wanted and no one wanted to serve. The story highlights the resistance of men and their families and their fleeing to Canada. A network is made with others who have done the same. The arguments of what their renounced country is and is not doing evolves into a deadly one. Austin Starr's (the wife of one such draft dodger ...more
Lynne Raimondo
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book and was sorry to finish it. Kendall does a brilliant job of evoking the atmosphere of the Vietnam War era and the dislocation her young heroine feels after moving to Canada with her husband, a conscientious objector. Canada is our friendly North American neighbor, but it's easy to forget that it's still a foreign country, with an English-speaking culture that is sometimes very different from our own. Its justice system may treat defendants less harshly than ours, but tha ...more
Susy Gage
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book spoke to me on many levels. I love the parts about the freezing Southerner in Canada ("banana belt" lol), and about the homesickness of being an American in Canada. The whole era was captured in a way that reminded me of my parents' stories, bringing the sixties to life. "Three mile rule," love it. Really enjoyed the political intrigue and interplay. The only criticism I have is that I was surprised by the villain's identity, and would have liked to know more about what sparked the cri ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-done
I was in high school at the time of this book. The author nailed her characters in terms of how they act, talk, dress and what their concerns are in terms of politics with protests and avoiding drafts by going to Canada as well as the music of the time. It was like a time capsule. That's tough to do looking back. So many period pieces are infused with too much modern sensibilities. In this setting, Kay crafted a richly thought out and intelligent mystery. I look forward to the second book in the ...more
Warren Hutch
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mystery fans, history buffs, boomers and their offspring
Recommended to Warren by: a neighbor
This gripping mystery took me back to a really tense time when I witnessed so many Americans flooding up to Canada. Many of us in Canadian universities were riled up over the war—and sex, drugs and rock and roll—even in usually sedate Manitoba. Desolation Row shows you what it was all like if you weren’t alive back then as I was…kind of like my reading a WWII book to see what it was like for my parents. Highly recommended.
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This fast-paced mystery recalls a chaotic and tragic time in American history, when too many young men faced the choice of fighting a war they didn't believe in, or leaving their homeland to avoid it. I love the way this author uses her own wit, skill and personal experience to flesh out her characters. This is an exceptional debut mystery.
Tammy Hastings
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads-wins
I received this from First Reads Giveaways.

Wow. Just wow. I loved this book. It was simply amazing from beginning to end. I have not ONE. SINGLE. complaint about it. It was just... Wow. It is one of those books that I can't really write a review about because once I started talking about it, I wouldn't be able to stop. It's just... I'm sorry to say it again, but Wow.
Ken Pelham
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Author Kay Kendall pulls us back into a time of polarization and change--the 1960s--and spins a captivating mystery novel out of it. Transplanted student Austin Starr follows her husband to the draft-resister community in Toronto, and becomes embroiled in a murder mystery.

My estimation is that fans of Nevada Barr's heroine, Anna Pigeon, will find Austin Starr much to their liking.
Colby Marshall
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: enjoyed
When Austin Starr's husband is accused of murder, the young sleuth sets out to find the killer herself. Fast-paced, smart-plotting, and a rich, historical setting during the Vietnam War, if you enjoy mysteries, you're bound to love Austin Starr.
Pamela Hutchins
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the debut Austin Starr mystery from Houston author Kay Kendall. I especially liked the depiction of the 60's and viewpoint of US refugees in Canada, which was new to me. I look forward to more from Kay and Austin!
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
The story flows easily and the characters are distinct in this throwback to the 60s. The female protagonist, Austin, is gutsy and likeable. I enjoy a mystery where loose ends are tied up neatly and this was one of them.
Linda Zagon
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I have to blame author Kay Kendall, author of ” DESOLATION ROW’ for the sleepless night I had, so that I could finish reading her novel. I just couldn’t stop reading until I discovered “Who Did It?” so to speak. The genres for “DESOLATION ROW’ are Mystery, Fiction, and in my opinion, Historical Fiction. This novel brought me back to the end of the sixties, and reminded me of so many things.
The year is 1968, and you are living in a foreign country that
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was autumn in 1968 when their friend from the draft resister’s group was murdered in a church, the very place where they were supposed to gather for a meeting. The others had left, but Reg Simpson had gone back for his jacket. And that is when it happened.

David and Austin Starr had relocated to Toronto when they began to fear that David would soon be drafted. Not willing to actually dodge the draft, the two of them transferred to the University of Toronto and joined other resisters.

But life h
Susan Keefe
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story is set at the 1960’s during the Vietnam War, at the time when Richard Nixon became president and the hippy, ‘peace and love’ scene was in full swing.

Newly married Austin Starr, and her husband David, have fled Texas. David is a draft resistor and they are living, with others who are like minded in Canada.

Settling down in a strange country, so different from her home is hard enough for Austin, however she is determined to be a good wife and supportive of her husband. Then, suddenly he
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Back in the Vietnam War Era (and yes it was a war-no matter that the powers that be never declared it as such) many young Americans left for Canada to avoid the draft, never knowing whether they would ever be able to walk on American soil again. It was a tumultuous time. Bob Dylan wrote a song called Desolation Row back then-the words to that song can be found here . None of the guys I knew ever went to Canada-some went to Vietnam and came back but were never the same, others didn't make it back ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
For starters, it took me 4 days to read it. With my current schedule, it usually takes me about a week, week and a half to read a book. I couldn't put this one down though. The first 200 pages make you want to keep turning the page. Austin is a great character, one I could relate to, one I could see myself through because I would be doing exactly what she did in that situation. That gave the book the "I cannot put this book down!" quality. Not only does she go sleuthing around, but she doesn't k ...more
Sofia The Great
I want to first start off that I got to meet the author at Houston author bash earlier this year. I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book. I just think it's a beautiful cover. This was the only physical book that I bought at the event even though I'm not a big reader of mystery novels. Again the cover is what drew me in. It did take me a while to actually read the book, but I'm really glad I go to it this year. The story is set in Canada during the anti-war movement in the 60s. The tim ...more
Gary Parkes
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
DESOLATION ROW immediately plunged me into the 60's and the adventure began! This mystery was a fun read and kept my interest throughout, wanting to see what happens next. I am looking forward to Austin Starr gaining more confidence as the series progresses. She is only 22, recently married with her husband accused of murder and living far from Texas where she is from, so she does have a few things on her plate. Austin is a smart everyday woman and is a highly relatable character. DESOLATION ROW ...more
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Desolation Row will keep you interested from page one because it is so cleverly written and the story pulls you in. I loved the characters of Austin Starr and Larissa the professor's daughter and the older police officer who liked words. I didn't get a real feel for Austin's husband, but Austin was the "star" here after all and she is gold. The time period was well drawn. I didn't know much about Canada at the time but I remember enough about the Vietnam war era to know the language and the musi ...more
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction, mysteries
DESOLATION ROW—AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY, set in 1968, in Toronto, Canada, during the Vietnam War. American expatriates are enveloped in murder and suspense involving one of their own. Homesick bride of an anti-war activist must prove her husband did not murder a fellow draft resister, the black-sheep son of a U.S. Senator. Debut novel by Texas author Kay Kendall, now writing the sequel RAINY DAY WOMEN.
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: free-copy
This was a very evocative historical mystery set in the 60's. I don't recall going to Canada during this time, but the references to the United States culture and political sensibilities was true to my memories. I was a bit disappointed in the heroine traveling to a place against her better judgement. Aside from that I truly enjoyed this book and I thank the author, Kay Kendall, for sending me a copy.
Dec 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: zeta-book-club
Couldn't decide between a 3 and 4 star. Basically Austin the main character does a great job sleuthing to try to find the true killer and free her husband from jail when he is accused of the crime. Good mystery and the killers for the murders (yes multiple of both) is unexpected until the final chapters.

Looking forward to meeting the author at our book club when she visits!
Unknown Unknown
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Has a strong female protagonist, and a thrilling story.
Kay Kendall is a wonderful author and I'll be looking forward to reading more of her works.

I recommend this to anyone who likes a crime thriller.

Received as part of a goodreads givaway
Ramona Paetzold
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. First in a series that will take you back to the '60s, complete with draft resistance, Nixon's election, and Vietnam. Austin Starr is a strong and likable protagonist who's gutsy and (based on the cover art) reminds me of Janis Joplin. Can't wait to read the next in the series.
Gloria Ferris
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved the story of 1960s Toronto - hippies, draft dodgers, murder!
« previous 1 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Perks Of Bein...: Comment to win giveaway! 9 59 Mar 31, 2014 01:07PM  
Connecting Reader...: Comment to win giveaway of mystery! 1 5 Mar 29, 2014 09:41AM  
Making Connections: Comment to win giveaway! 1 5 Mar 29, 2014 09:35AM  
On the Southern L...: Nashville TN event--two Texas authors 1 12 Mar 04, 2014 02:36PM  
The Perks Of Bein...: Nashville TN author event 1 5 Mar 04, 2014 02:34PM  
Connecting Reader...: Author event in Nashville TN 1 8 Mar 04, 2014 02:24PM  
Boomers and Books: Mystery set in 1968 2 7 Feb 04, 2014 05:22AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Here To Stay
  • Rare Objects
  • Murder on Trinity Place (Gaslight Mystery, #22)
  • Such a Perfect Wife
See similar books…
Before Kay Kendall began to write books, she was an award-winning international public relations executive, working in the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, and Europe. Ask her about working in Moscow during the Cold War—and turning down a job with the CIA in order to attend grad school at Harvard. Because of her degrees in Russian history, Kay often brings Cold War elements into her tales. She takes ...more

Other books in the series

Austin Starr Mysteries (3 books)
  • Rainy Day Women (Austin Starr Mysteries #2)
  • After You've Gone (Austin Starr #3)

Related Articles

As serious bookworms know, autumn reading is particularly rewarding. The days get shorter, the air gets cooler, and curling up with a...
391 likes · 175 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“I write about what life was like for typical young women of the sixties—not the type that made headlines, the Hanoi Janes or Angela Davises, but moderates who nonetheless got swept up by history's tides during that turbulent time. All that turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.” 7 likes
More quotes…