Tag Archives: Lucy Burdette

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.



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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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.



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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Zestful debut puts Lucy Burdette in the limelight

“An Appetite for Murder,” by Lucy Burdette. Obsidian. 320 pp. $7.99.

Part time Key West resident Roberta Isleib, well established as a mystery writer under her own name, has just adopted the pen name Lucy Burdette to launch a new series. “An Appetite for Murder,” which inaugurates the Key West Food Critic Mystery series, is a terrific start.

Hayley Snow, the protagonist, is a darling young woman who is venturing forth to make an independent life of her own a couple of years out of college.

She has fallen in love with Key West as a place to try her wings. Hayley has a couple of good friends who already live there, and she recently fell for a man who asked her to come there and move in with him. On the romance score, the move turned out to be a bad decision, as this aggressive divorce lawyer dumped her within a few months. It seems as if the guy was on the rebound from a break-up when he met Hayley, but then returned to the other woman. In fact, Hayley walked in on the two of them.

To complicate matters a bit (actually, more that a bit), that woman, Kristen Faulkner, comes from a wealthy and influential Key West family. She heads a new venture, a lifestyle magazine named “Key Zest,” and Hayley is seeking the announced position as its food critic. Can she get a job working for her rival? No matter, before long Kristen Faulkner is found poisoned to death and Hayley is the primary suspect.  Was it the key lime pie?

Lucy Burdette

Though the police would rather she didn’t, Hayley can’t help but put her own intelligence to work toward solving the mystery. Her suggestions are essentially ignored, and she remains a “person of interest” through much of the novel. Without an alibi, with opportunity, and with a good enough motive (jealousy), Hayley is a very convenient suspect.

While the twists and turns of Hayley’s investigation provide plenty of suspense, including a threat to her life, her desperate pursuit of the food critic position provides another suspenseful plot. It also provides plenty of interest regarding the restaurant business, food preparation, and even recipes. Hayley is a diehard foodie.  There are even a few recipes at the end of the book!

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 15, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 16 issue of the Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Lucy Burdette pdf


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