Tag Archives: Key West

By land or by sea, commit to your big adventure before it’s too late

The Adventures of Three Old Geezers: The Bright Idea, by Richard Perron. Amazon CreateSpace. 129 pages. Trade paperback $15.00.

This heartwarming and entertaining book, a fictionalized memoir, is the first of two by a conflicted Naples, Florida resident. Both have the same main title. The extended title for the second book is “Up, Up, and Away.” What’s the conflict? On one page the author tells as what’s wrong with the wealthier classes who enjoy this resort town and what’s silly about those in the gated communities who foolishly think they have purchased security. Elsewhere, readers learn how much Mr. Perron truly enjoys Naples and all the delights that it has to offer. 

He presents himself as a man ready to work through his bucket list, which would mean taking some chances and breaking his routines. Curmudgeon? Maybe, but finally a perceptive and good-humored one. Richard (AKA Captain Richard) has the “bright idea” of “borrowing” a luxury sailboat from a gone-north snowbird and, with his buddies Frank and Bill, going on an adventure trip to the Caribbean. These aging gentlemen want to wake themselves up, and that’s exactly what they do. No more stagnation.

Richard has enough boat savvy, and enough self-confidence, to take the captain’s role, parceling out subordinate tasks to his buddies. He also is willing to risk getting caught by the yacht club’s security – but of course this doesn’t happen.

After gaining some understanding of the boat’s technology and figuring out what provisions they need, the three adventurers are on their way.

They enjoy the beauty of the night skies, and they face the danger of storms. But they find out, if they didn’t know it before, what Jean Paul Sartre pointed out: “Hell is other people.” Yes, they meet some of those hellish people.

First stop, a psychologically necessary one, is Key West. After all, this unconventional “party town” will help them loosen up their lifestyles. Richard notes the contrast between Key West and “the anal-retentive city of Naples.” The three adventurers visit Richard’s friend Harry, a Key West resident who shows them around. They also make a stop at nearby Stock Island where they purchase fuel and other provisions. The Key West section has wonderful, engaging scenes of relatively harmless, hedonistic pleasure. It’s a good starting point for what’s to come.

Richard Perron

Their next destination is the Turks and Caicos Islands, but they are stopped by a government vessel, either Coast Guard or DEA. Richard easily answers a few questions and receives the admonition to “have a good day and stay safe.” They have a great onboard party that night and take turns keeping watch. A near-brush with an oil tanker rattles them a bit.

Now cruising the Atlantic, they put up the sails (saving fuel) and land a huge tuna, which they turn into a feast. Then they head into the Caribbean Sea. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 28, 2019 Bonita Springs and Venice editions of Florida Weekly, as well as the December 4 Fort Myers edition and the December 5 Naples and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Three Old Geezers

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A fun-packed mystery with food for thought and thought for food

A Deadly Feast, by Lucy Burdette. Crooked Lane. 228 pages. Hardcover $26.99.

It may be that calling a book and its main character “delightful” does not seem like a term of high praise. However, how much in our lives is delightful? How often might we wish to be delighted? Like its eight predecessors, this latest title in the “Key West Food Critic Mystery” series will put a smile on your face while keeping you engaged with suspenseful plot details and the charms of idiosyncratic Key West.

Exuberant, curious, and good-natured Hayley Snow is the restaurant columnist for Key Zest magazine, and as readers now expect, doing her job is likely to lead her into trouble. She is covering a seafood tasting tour orchestrated by her friend Analise, an event meant to show off Key West cuisine, when things go wrong. One of the customers mysteriously dies while feasting at the tour’s last stop. Analise enlists Hayley’s help, and the game is on.

It’s not that Hayley has nothing else to do but go sleuthing. On the schedule is a special Thanksgiving celebration tied to Hayley’s marriage to her handsome, protective beau Nathan – a police detective stressed out by a dangerous case he’s working on, the impending marriage, and the need to meet many of Hayley’s relatives for the first time.

Lucy Burdette / photo credit Carol Tedesco

So, we have a recipe for stress and mayhem.

Oh, one more thing: Hayley and Nathan are hoping to have a houseboat restored in time to move into soon after the wedding. As is so often the case with such endeavors, things are not going well and contractors are not showing up to meet the schedule.

Was the victim killed by something she ate at that last tour stop? Did something go wrong with chef Marsha Hubbard’s Key Lime pie – her virtuoso signature item? Is Marsha’s career doomed? Was the event – and the pie – sabotaged? Will the restaurant’s reputation collapse?

And then there’s a second death!

The police, including Nathan, are on the case, and the lovers have their usual conflict over Hayley’s need to get involved and Nathan’s need to keep her safe and perform like the professional that he is.

It’s all about friends, relatives, food, excitement, and danger. Readers will enjoy the spunky Miss Gloria, who has shared her houseboat with Kayley and is a “poster girl” for active, insightful octogenarians. Lorenzo the Tarot Card guru is another loveable Key Wester. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 21, 2019 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the August 22  Charlotte County and Venice editions, and the August 29 Naples  edition, click here: DeadlyFeast

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Havana/Key West conference encourages fruitful discussion but meets disaster

Death on the Menu, by Lucy Burdette. Crooked Lane Books. 304 pages. Hardcover $26.99

This is the 8th installment of Ms. Burdette’s Key West Food Critic mystery series, featuring the lovable Hayley Snow. This time out, it’s under the imprint of a new publisher. When a major three-day event is planned to find common ground between the cities of Havana and Key West, Hayley’s mother gets the catering contract. The venue is the Harry Truman Little White House. As the conference approaches, conflicting political agendas seem likely to undermine this good-will opportunity. They are also undermining the aspirations of the man who manages the Little White House facility.  

Hayley and Miss Gloria (Hayley’s 80+ year old landlady and friend) are pressed into service to help with the catering chores. Meanwhile, Hayley is being pushed by her employers at “Key Zest” magazine to meet several deadlines.

Members of a Cuban-American family get caught in the tangle of cross-purposes, and there is a scandal over the disappearance of a rare piece of Hemingway memorabilia that has been loaned to the event by the Cuban visitors. It has been stolen from its display case.

Who stole it? Why? How and why was Gabriel, a member of that Cuban-American family and assisting the event, murdered?

Well, of course, Hayley can’t help pushing herself into the investigation, even while warned about going too far by her boyfriend, police Detective Nathan Bransford.

Lucy Burdette / photo credit Carol Tedesco

As with previous titles in this series, Hayley’s investigations give Mr. Burdette the opportunity to provide colorful – and flavorful – tours all around Key West. The author brings this unique town fully to life, in both its physical and cultural dimensions. The inside look at the Truman Little White House is delightfully engaging, as is the portrait of the Hemingway home and all the adjacent neighborhoods. Hayley’s connection with the conference catering, as well as her need to generate three restaurant reviews for “Key Zest,” takes readers into a series of food establishments. The focus for the conference menu and for Hayley’s column are Cuban specialties, and these vivid scenes will make readers’ mouths water.

Suspense tightens when a relative of the murdered Gabriel is at first missing and then found seriously injured. It gets even tighter when Detective Bransford allows Hayley to play a dangerous role in the investigation as part of the detective’s plan to draw out the perpetrator. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the November 21, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the November 22 Naples, Bonita Springs, Key West, and Palm Beach editions, and the November 29 Charlotte County edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Death on the Menu

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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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Politics push the plot in suspenseful seafaring adventure

The Assassin’s Honor, by Robert N. Macomber. Pineapple Press. 392 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

One of the great feelings that comes over me when I settle into a new Honor Series novel by Mr. Macomber is the sense that I’m in such capable and caring hands. It’s like having an insurance policy against disappointments. And there are none in the twelfth installment of this unique and durable series. The action is set in December of 1892. Commander Peter Wake, after 29 years in the navy that includes 10 years in the Office of Naval Intelligence with assignments worldwide, is finally in charge of his own ship – a new cruiser, “Bennington,” of the latest design. Assassin's_Maple cover

As one might expect, he is regularly in the company of his career-long aide, Boatswain Sean Rork, an estimable ruffian from Ireland. Theirs is a very special relationship, a deep friendship that goes far beyond the conventions of officer and subordinate.

If this new post sounds like settling down, it isn’t quite that. However, there is a romance brewing. If it develops as both parties hope, Wake could once again be a married man. The quick-start relationship with a beautiful Spanish woman of breeding and intelligence is a major attraction for the readers and for Peter Wake, especially since she takes a liberal stance toward Cuba’s future that allies her with her admirer. Finding the time to spend with her is as great a problem as meeting the challenges of his duties.

The action moves between Key West and Tampa, with interludes along the Caribbean coast of Mexico, in Jamaica, and – in part through flashbacks that sketch his first encounter with Maria Ana Maura y Abad – in Washington D.C.

The main action is generated by a scheme to distract and mislead Wake. Fooled by clues that have been planted to mislead him, Wake convinces his superior, Admiral Walker, to send him to and beyond Cozumel to thwart an attempt by someone aboard the German “Gneisenau” to assassinate a Mayan rebel. The Germans, wishing to establish a naval station to protect their Mexican and other interests, can’t risk a government overthrow or instability.

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It turns out that Wake had succumbed to manipulated evidence designed to keep him occupied while an assassin was sent to Tampa (actually Yvor City) to do away with Wake’s good friend, the famed author and Cuban patriot José Martí. Wake’s old enemies from previous adventures, Germany and Spain, are working against him. The conflicts are both national and personal. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 23 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 24 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Honor

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Latest Key West Food Critic mystery has all the right ingredients

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.  FatalReservations

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.

Burdette photo by Carol Tedesco

Burdette photo by Carol Tedesco

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

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Restaurant and critic attacked in well-seasoned whodunnit

Death with All the Trimmings, by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian. 320 pages. Mass Market paperback $7.99.

Want to feed your murder mystery appetite and still get ready for the Christmas season? Ms. Burdette’s latest “Key West Food Critic Mystery” should be on your December reading menu. Though Haley Snow’s love life is not going smoothly, her busybody sleuthing is in high gear. And there is plenty to be sleuthing about.  Death_With_All_the_Trimmings

A big dollop of excitement comes Haley’s way when a notable New York chef decides to open a new restaurant in Key West. Edel Waugh is a very talented woman, a perfectionist and also a nervous wreck about establishing her reputation independent of partnership with her ex-husband. Haley has been assigned by her boss and boyfriend – the editor of “Key Zest” magazine – to cover the restaurant opening.

Curiously, she has also been approached by Edel to be a kind of insider in the project. Edel has heard about Hayley’s sleuthing talents and wants her to, confidentially, investigate what looks like sabotage. Corrupted recipes are part of the problem.

A partner in the “Key Zest” enterprise, Ava Faulkner, has always disliked Hayley, and now she thinks that Hayley’s behavior is unprofessional. How can Hayley be an objective restaurant reviewer when she is helping out the owner-chef?

When Hayley learns that “Key Zest” may be attracting investors who wish to make major changes, she worries that her job is at stake. Wally is not very consoling about this problem.

However, there is worse news in Hayley’s orbit. Edel’s restaurant catches fire and, though it has not burned down and can be repaired, it will be closed until the fire is investigated. Edel is despondent.  So, who has it in for Edel? Who wants the restaurant, if it ever opens, to fail?

Lucy Burdette

Lucy Burdette

Whoops! It’s worse than that. The fire killed someone who had been trapped in the restaurant’s storage shed. Accident? Unintended consequence? Murder? Stay with me, folks.

Much of any novel in this series focuses on Hayley in motion, darting around on her motorbike tracing a map of her life on Key West. Whether she is picking up a coffee, popping in to a favorite place for a snack, going to work in the “Key Zest” office, meeting a friend, going home to the small houseboat she shares with her much older friend Miss Gloria, or checking a restaurant that she plans to review, Hayley is a blur of activity. The reality of the Key West she knows so intimately provides the reader with a vivid, authentic setting. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 4, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, the December 10 Fort Myers edition, the December 11 Bonita Springs edition, and the December 18 Palm Beach Garden/Jupiter  and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach edtions, click here Florida Weekly – Trimmings 1 and here Florida Weekly – Trimmings 2.

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Like a gourmet meal, Burdette’s latest mystery will leave you wanting more

Murder with Ganache, by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian. 320 pages. Mass market paperback $7.99.

This fourth entry in the Key West Food Critic Mystery Series is a bit darker than the first three. It is just as enjoyable, but not so much in a laugh out loud way. Restaurant critic Hayley Snow, an enchanting young woman striving to prove herself as an independent adult in her adopted home town, has a lot of bowling pins in the air at once. Can she juggle them all successfully?  Murder_With_Ganache Cover

Just when she needs some relief from the deadline pressures of her assignments with “Key Zest Magazine,” she gets additional assignments, including one on the Hemingway cats, with almost immediate due dates. What has complicated her life is her agreement to manage her friend Connie’s wedding. It’s just around the corner, and that means relatives and friends are piling into town and need Hayley’s attention.

Among the newly arrived are Hayley’s mother Janet and Janet’s beau, Sam; Hayley’s father and his second wife Allison; and Allison’s teenage son from her first marriage, fifteen year old Rory. Rory’s brooding teenage angst is on display. Is it just that he doesn’t want to be there? Or is something else bothering him?

Before we know what has Rory in a distressed state, he disappears into Key West’s spring break scene. After frantic searching by Hayley, their relatives and the police, Rory is discovered beaten up and unconscious. Worse, he is found to be the last person to have been seen with a teenage girl who has turned up dead. Comatose Rory is soon the prime suspect in a murder case. When he regains consciousness, he cannot seem to remember much about what happened. Or is he just hiding the truth?

 Stepsister Hayley cannot keep from leading her own investigation, often risking the wrath of the law enforcement professionals.

Burdette

Burdette

Rory’s predicament soon brings his irascible bully of a father onto the scene. One can readily understand how the tug of war between this man and his ex-wife Allison shaped Rory’s upbringing. It’s amazing that Rory can function at all.

Suddenly, the wedding is called off. A confrontation between Connie’s father, who unexpectedly shows up though they had been estranged, and her fiancé Ray leads to a meltdown of the lovers’ relationship. Ray’s parents, as well as all the other family members, are perplexed by the situation, but Ray won’t talk and Connie feels betrayed and lost.

Now Hayley has even more to worry about. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the February 19, 2014 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 20 Naples, Bonita Springs,and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Burdette’s Ganache

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Burdette tosses a hearty, humorous dish at reality television

Topped Chef, by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian. 320 pages. $7.99.

 This is the third in Ms. Burdette’s light and lovely Key West Food Critic Mysteries, following An Appetite for Murder and Death in Four Courses. The author has discovered and mastered the structural benefits of the classic space and time unities. These give the energy of compression to her plots. What better way to confine the spatial scope than to set a story on an island? What better island than the simultaneously familiar and remote Key West – a place where real history and legend combine? What better way to set temporal limits than to focus on an exciting, short-term event?  ToppedChef

In Death in Four Courses, Ms. Burdette explored laughs and deaths at a literary seminar given over to food writers. Now, in Topped Chef, it’s the short-term and on-the-cheap filming of a realty television cooking show. It’s a competition, of course. Not only are the contestants competing, but it seems as if the judges are as well. Though we’ll find out later how she was chosen for the task, intrepid foodie and amateur sleuth Hayley Snow, restaurant critic for “Key Zest” lifestyle magazine, is on the judging panel.  

After Hayley meets her fellow judges and the contestants, the somewhat irritable producer-director, Peter Shapiro, sets things in motion with assistance of Hayley’s acquaintance, the impeccable Deena Smith. A significant number of applicants had already been winnowed to six serious contestants. Now those six, with the judges on hand, would be chopped down to three finalists. The tension builds.

The four judges and three finalists are comprised of strongly individualized characters. Lucy Burdette draws them in broad strokes, allowing readers to sort them out. The judges include Sam Rizzoli, big shot local restaurateur who newest place has been given a negative review by Haley, causing serious friction. The other judges are the thoroughly conceited Chef Adam Boyd; the reserved and hesitant food-writer/memoirist Toby Davidson; and the overly curious motormouth, Hayley herself.

Lucy Burdette

Lucy Burdette

Even more sharply etched are the remaining contestants: flamboyant drag queen Randy Thompson; Buddy Higgs, creator of ingenious dishes based on “molecular gastronomy;” and ethnic combo expert Henrietta Stentzel, with whom Hayley once had a run-in.What’s most fun with this loony crew is Ms. Burdette’s perfect pitch parody of food talk as made familiar on “Chopped” and other popular food programs where judges and competitors try to top each in their descriptions of preparations, styles, successes, and failures.

But wait – this is a murder mystery. . . .

To see this review in its entirety, as it appears in the May 1, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the May 2 Bonita Beach and Charlotte County editions, and the May 9 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Topped Chef

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A mouthwatering mystery that will tickle your taste buds

 Death in Four Courses, by Lucy Burdette.  Signet Obsidian.  320 pages. $7.99.

The second title in Ms. Burdette’s Key West Food Critic mysteries builds firmly and sure-handedly on the first, An Appetite for Murder, published (and reviewed in these pages) early this year. As readers will expect, murder will find budding food critic Hayley Snow as she tries to solidify her job writing restaurant reviews for a life style magazine named “Key Zest.” This time, two murders find her and her visiting mother disappears. 

Taking advantage of Key West’s popularity as a setting for writers’ conferences, Lucy Burdette imagines a special conference for food writers. Hayley, of course, is excited about covering this important event for the magazine. She can rub elbows with some of the movers and shakers in the field while enjoying and writing about the special dining treats that are part of the conference. When the keynote speaker, tell-all food guru Jonah Barrows, is murdered, Hayley can’t help but look into the case, especially when her good friend Eric becomes the primary suspect. Of course one’s close friends are never murderers.

Especially when she’s the one who found Barrows lifeless in a decorative pool.

Hayley’s meddling behavior, assisted nobly by her energetic and perceptive mother, does not improve her tenuous relationship with the heartthrob detective, Nate Bransford, who leads the investigation.

Lucy Burdette

Well, murder gossip is exciting, but it throws a cold blanket on the conference. Dustin Fredericks, the organizer and host of the affair, has a big problem breathing life back into the event and keeping it on track. His problem grows even larger when another of the featured speakers is found dead.

While looking for the conference’s missing Chinese food specialist, Yoshe King, Hayley and mom come upon her lifeless body on a pile of waterfront rocks just below the balcony of her bed-and-breakfast room. Is it suicide –or foul play? Does Yoshe’s death have anything to do with Jonah’s?

Mother and daughter push on . . . and on, until the resolution of both mysteries. The springs of suspense are wound tighter and tighter as the novel progresses. Clearing Eric of suspicion would seem to demand the determined action of this dynamic duo. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the September 26, 2012 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 27 Naples and Spacecoast editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Lucy Burdette

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