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Death on the Menu by Lucy Burdette. Key West Food Critic Mystery #8
NY: Crooked Lane Press. 2018
My first encounter with Lucy Burdette’s previous writing as Roberta Isleib was when I read Deadly Advice, the first Advice Column mystery. To this day, it remains one of my top ten favorite mysteries. I loved the intelligent, resourceful heroine, the clever writing, the solid plotting, and the way the story and the protagonist refused to be stereotypes in a genre whose formula was beginning to narrow. I enjoyed all the Advice Column mysteries, but Deadly Advice stands out on many levels (and I often recommend it when I teach).
I admit (with a bit of embarrassment) that I have not read her golfing mysteries, mostly because to say I “don’t like” golf is an understatement. But I’m sure they’re well-written!
When the Key West Food Critic Series came out, under the Lucy Burdette name, I read them with relish (okay, that pun was half-intended). I like food, I’m interested in Key West (a place on my Must Visit Someday List), and I knew it would be well-written.
Burdette has switched publishers and is now with Crooked Lane Books. As writers, so often we’re told that we “can’t” move to a new publisher mid-series. Death on the Menu proves that is not true, and that Crooked Lane is an excellent choice.
Hayley Snow is back, and better than ever, even though she’s juggling love, murder, helping her mother’s catering business, strained Cuban-American relations, and a missing Hemingway medal.
Her mother’s new catering business landed a big-deal contract for a summit held on Key West to help Cuban-American relations. If it goes well, the business takes off; if it fails, so does the business. There’s a lot at stake. Hayley pitches in, even as she wonders where her relationship with Nathan, a local detective, is headed.
Tensions are high among the factions, and it’s not helped when one of Hemingway’s medals, on loan for the summit, vanishes, and one of the Cuban-American catering staff is found dead.
Hayley is smart and stubborn. She is like a terrier with a bone, when she gets an idea, and determined to follow through. She also gets a lesson in the privileges that come with her skin color, and the challenges faced by the Cuban Americans on both sides of the issue of opening relations between countries again. Burdette doesn’t shy away from the issues; at the same time, it’s not heavy-handed or preachy. The information and conflicts are integrated into plot, story, and character. Key West is a vital character in this series; in this book it’s more vibrant, immediate, and interesting than ever (especially in the scenes where the Hemingway cats have cameos).
Hayley’s intelligence and resourcefulness come back to the forefront of this book (whereas the last couple, it was more about stubbornness). It’s a joy to see her shine again, and the series feels fresh and energetic. There are some clever twists, and the ending sets up a wonderful arc for the next books in the series, and it will be fun to watch them play out.
As always, there are recipes. The Mojito Cake is outstanding and about to go on my list of go-to recipes. The Cuban Roast Pork Mojo Style is also scrumptious. I look forward to trying the rest of the recipes, too!
Changing publishers infused the series with fresh energy. The previous publisher had a strong “company voice” and in my opinion, it sometimes felt as though individual author voices were diluted in favor of the Company Voice.
Burdette’s voice is loud and clear again in this book, and it’s wonderful.
Death on the Menu will delight Burdette’s many fans, and, no doubt, enchant a host of new ones to the series.