Fatal Reservations, by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian/NAL. 320 pages. Mass market paperback $7.99.
This is the sixth title in the Key West Food Critic Mystery series. Throughout the series, Ms. Burdette has built a silken web to catch fans of food, food journalism, Key West, and . . . oh yeah, murder mysteries. The particular coupling of foodies and mystery fans has caught on, with other writers as well as cable television producers racing to exploit reader and viewer interest in this combination. Lucy Burdette, for this reviewer, tops the field.
In large part, this is because Haley Snow, her protagonist, is just so darn appealing. Not glamorous, not super smart, not highly confident, Haley is cute and cuddly (which means a bit overweight) and determined to prove herself a responsible independent young woman. Her missteps are as much fun as her successes.
By now, the young “Key Zest” restaurant critic is fairly well-known in this unique community. She has developed a network of friends and an acquaintance with a few police officials who wish she’d stay out of their way. As with many other amateur sleuths, trouble finds her.
Several problems are facing Key West residents and business people. There is a burglar at work in the cemetery neighborhood. There is a new restaurant somehow able to avoid regulations, upsetting the other restauranteurs. Because the new restaurant floats, its plans can bypass the approval of the Historical Architectural Review Commission.
The main problem has to do with the daily Sunset Celebration in the Mallory Square neighborhood. This is a street festival with arts and crafts exhibitors, street performers, food carts, psychics, and so forth. It’s a very popular tourist attraction. However, members of the exhibitor/performer group have begun fighting over their performance space. Their squabbling threatens the event.
In particular, Hayley’s good friend, Tarot card psychic Lorenzo, is at odds with Bart Frontgate. Bart is a juggler whose specialty is juggling custom made wood-handled forks skewered into flaming hunks of meat.
Before the city administrators can settle the Mallory Square Pier chaos, Bart is found dead. The evidence points to Lorenzo, who is acting guilty while pleading innocence.
Hayley, who knows that quirky, kind-hearted Lorenzo couldn’t possibly commit murder, makes her feelings known to the police. More than that, she begins her own investigation. Yes, dear readers, she has done such things before. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 29, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Fatal Reservations