Key West Halloween festival brings downfall to would-be queen

Killer Takeout, by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian/NAL. 304 pages. Paperback $7.99.

The titles that comprise Ms. Burdette’s Key West Food Critic Mysteries are always a delight. Her young protagonist, Hayley Snow, is one of those amateur sleuths who just can’t help sticking her neck out. She is always sure the professionals are overlooking something, and her curiosity and desire to help gets her into trouble. Thank goodness, so far she has continued to find her way out of that trouble. KillerTakeout-1-1

While Hayley’s personality is a major ingredient in the appeal of these novels, the quirky atmosphere of Key West is just as important to readers’ pleasure. Throw in the love of food, especially as enjoyed in good restaurants, and how can the recipe fail?

It doesn’t.

This time out, we are witness to a series of events called Fantasy Fest – parades for the most part – leading up to Halloween festivities. The zombie theme has taken hold, and a king and queen have been selected to head the processions and other doings. The crowded streets of Key West are packed with costumed exhibitionists mimicking madness and mayhem.

Moving along with the crowd, many of them repeatedly yelling “zombie down,” Hayley becomes aware of a woman who has indeed fallen. It’s hard to tell if she’s leaking real blood or fake blood from her costume. In fact, it is the same woman – a rival for the queen’s crown – who had previously attacked Hayley’s friend Danielle, the person anointed as festival queen. Before long, Danielle is being interrogated by the police. Her moment of glory has been turned upside down. Sweet Danielle, Hayley’s co-worker at “Key Zest” magazine, is suspected of murdering Caryn Druckman, the nasty zombie.

Burdette

Burdette

This series is all about the various things that Hayley tries to do at the same time. Aside from crime-solving, she is working on her next restaurant review column for “Key Zest.” This time, she has chosen to review takeout establishments, some of which are food trucks while others offer carry-out from standard restaurants. Naturally, this decision allows readers to do a couple of things as once: tour Key West and imaginatively savor tasty food. It also allows new glimpses of Hayley’s ongoing insecurities about keeping her job, as she has a run-in with her boss Palamina.

Of course, any part of her life would find her scooting around Key West. She doesn’t need an excuse.

It just so happens that Hayley’s mom and mom’s boyfriend Sam are about ready to tie the knot – additional complications to Hayley’s busy life, emotional and otherwise. Speaking of things marital (or almost), Hayley’s ongoing/offgoing relationship with police detective Nathan Bransford keeps that strand of interest alive through this Monster Mash of danger and fun. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 18, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 19 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Killer Takeout

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