About the Book
Genre: Cozy Mystery, #4 in A Key West Food Critic Mystery Series
Release Date: February 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Hayley Snow, the food critic for Key Zest magazine, has her plate heaped high with restaurant reviews, doughnut and sticky bun tastings, and an article on the Hemingway cats. But this week she’s also in charge of her best friend’s wedding. And then someone adds a side of murder
For better or worse, Hayley has agreed to bake over 200 cupcakes for her friend Connie’s wedding while still meeting her writing deadlines. The last thing she needs is family drama. But her parents come barreling down on the island like a category 3 hurricane and on their first night in town her stepbrother, Roby, disappears into the spring break party scene in Key West.
When Hayley hears that two teenagers have stolen a jet ski, she sets aside her oven mitts and goes in search of Rory. She finds him, barely conscious, but his female companion isn’t so lucky. Now Hayley has to let the cupcakes cool and assemble the sprinkles of clues to clear her stepbrother’s name—before someone else gets iced.
Food critic, Hayley Snow is back in the 4th book of the “Key West Food Critic Mystery” series. Her best friend, Connie, is about to be married and Hayley promises to bake over two hundred cupcakes. Unfortunately, her boss has given her several projects that need completion, as well. To make matters worse, her two sets of parents are in town for the wedding and things are getting crazier by the moment.
When her troubled teenage step-brother, Rory, vanishes, Hayley is on the scene to find him. After an extensive search, he’s finally found but in a coma. An even bigger problem is that the teenage girl he was with is found dead. The police are pointing fingers directly at Rory but he is in no shape to defend himself. Hayley is convinced Rory is innocent and is determined to prove it. If for no other reason, than preventing her step-mother from having a nervous breakdown.
I love this series. Hayley is a fun character and her devotion to her family shines through in this story. There are two possible romances, but they aren’t emphasized in this book. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in future books. The rest of the cast are created expertly, each one having their own personality and coming to life on each and every page.
The story moves along at a nice pace, with no down time. There are a few twists and turns. I didn’t figure out who did it until Haylely did. So, it kept me guessing. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, but I also still have to read the second book. I already read the first and third and enjoyed them. To add to my enjoyment, this book takes place in Key West and the author gives us a visit to the Hemingway House complete with all its live-in kitties.
For reading challenges:
2014 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge
2014 ARC Reading Challenge
2014 E-Book Reading Challenge
2014 Foodies Reading Challenge
2014 NetGalley Reading Challenge
Cruisin’ Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge
Where are you reading? challenge (Florida)
FTC Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review for this blog tour. This did not influence my thoughts and opinions in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
Author Guest Post
Questions for Lucy Burdette
Tell us a bit about the new book, MURDER WITH GANACHE:
MURDER WITH GANACHE is a cozy mystery starring Hayley Snow, a food critic who lives on a houseboat in Key West (the fourth in the Key West food critic series.) Her extended family is descending on the island like a category 3 hurricane for her best friend's wedding. When her teenage stepbrother disappears into the Duval Street spring break party scene, she must put the baking of cupcakes and other wedding chores on hold in order to search for her brother. The book features Hemingway cats, and cupcakes, and wedding drama, but in the end it's about finding and embracing family in whatever form they come.
Are you a food critic in real life? Why write about food in your mysteries?
This is the launch of my third mystery series, but the first one focused on food. (Although any readers of the advice column mysteries written as Roberta Isleib might remember that the main character, Dr. Rebecca Butterman, was an excellent cook.) It's such a pleasure to write about things I love--and food is certainly one of them. I love to eat, to read about new recipes, to cook, to eat out in restaurants, to read about food in both memoirs and fiction. This series has given me license to do all that with a vengeance! My husband likes to tease that "Isleib" means "is stomach" in German. His other fictionalized translation for my family name is "large lunch followed by a restful nap." No telling what he'll make up for Burdette...
That said, I don't think I'd like to be a food critic in real life--when I go out to eat, I like to choose what I feel like eating, not what I think other folks want to hear about. And there are places where I'd draw lines that my character Hayley Snow, cannot. For instance, tentacles. Raw fish and meat. Slimy things. Like that:). All the restaurants in my books really exist in Key West--except for the ones where the characters have bad meals.
Were you a foodie before you began to write the Key West mysteries?
The food critic series has really tweaked my interest in food and cooking because I have to think the way that my character, Hayley Snow, thinks. She uses food as a way to connect with people, and to calm herself down, and to seduce the folks she’s trying to get information from that may solve the mysteries. I've become a better cook--and eater too!--as a result.
I like what Hayley wrote for Key Zest at the end of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES: “I’d summed up by saying how important it was to remember that while food did mean life and death in its most elemental form, most often we in the food writing industry were talking about food as the pleasure of connections. When we wrote about simmering a stew or a sauce for hours or days, we were really talking about how much we owed to the folks who came before us and the importance of cherishing their memory. And how much we yearned to give to the people in our present who’d be gathered around our table. We were writing about food as family history, and love, and hope, and sometimes a little splash of guilt.”
I think the message in TOPPED CHEF might be that food doesn’t have to be fancy to be good. And a grandmother’s recipe for chocolate cake scratched out on a notecard can hold its own with a fancy chef’s menu. As for MURDER WITH GANACHE, I'll leave you with a bit of conversation from Hayley and her mother:
"Why is it that cooking always makes things feel a little less hopeless?” my mother mused as the vegetables softened.
“At least we’re doing something,” I said, as she whipped the eggs with a splash of water and stirred them into the pan.
“We feel like we’re taking care of people when there’s really nothing to be done.” I grinned. “That’s what you taught me anyway.”
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Oh food, food, food--I find it one of life’s great pleasures! I can’t possibly pick one dish, so I’ll give the general idea. I love homestyle food--nothing too fancy--things like macaroni and cheese, roast chicken, Bolognese sauce on spaghetti, fried okra, fresh tomatoes with basil and a drizzle of olive oil, chocolate cake, peanut butter cookies, caramel cake...
Luckily, in the Key West mysteries, the more I write about food, the happier is my editor. And to write about it, I have to cook and eat and try new restaurants. And that makes my husband happy. It’s a hard life, but Hayley and I are willing to do it!
Why did you decide to set this series in Key West?
My husband and I drove up and down both sides of Florida about seven years ago, looking for a place to escape winter. I already liked the state, having spent four years in Gainesville for graduate school, and lots of time visiting relatives in Tallahassee and Fort Myers. Key West was our last stop--a sort of vacation from the trip, a respite from our search. We drove down the string of islands and bridges that leads to Key West, agreeing that we'd never live in a place so fragile, so isolated, so exposed.
But instead of listening to our practical voices, we fell in love. Of course, the island is totally gorgeous, dotted with tropical foliage and surrounded by turquoise water. But underneath its fashion-model looks, magical, whimsical, bizarro Key West has many layers, reaching from the richest of the rich at one end to a significant homeless population on the other. There are folks who were born and raised on the island and lots of others who come to party or who come because they don't quite fit into a traditional lifestyle but find they feel comfortable here. There's a thriving artistic scene, great food, and a fabulous literary history.
So when I was thinking about pitching a new series, Key West chose me. Naturally my other books were set someplace--golf courses for Cassie Burdette's series and Southern Connecticut for the advice column mysteries. But Key West doesn't lay back as scenery--the island insists on becoming a major character.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
For me, writing is definitely a midlife crisis! It’s hard to believe that my twelfth book, MURDER WITH GANACHE, will be published this month. I have a Ph.D in clinical psychology and worked for fifteen years in that field, never dreaming that I’d become a mystery writer. On the other hand, I’ve always been a big reader, especially of mysteries. And the psychology background is so useful when I’m developing characters and motivation. So it all falls into place...
Any tips for aspiring writers? How do you get your books written?
This tip is no real revelation: Plant butt in chair and write. Remain there until I hit my predetermined word count. Lately I've been trying for around a thousand words a day. If it takes two hours to write those words, then YAY!, I have time to do other things that all sounded more appealing as I fended them off while writing. On the more painful days, especially when I don't know where I'm headed with the story, it might take seven or eight hours because I've checked my gmail inbox every five minutes. And then remembered there must be some urgent laundry to do or the dog needs walking or I can't go one more minute without organizing that messy kitchen drawer. But I try to stick with it and to ignore the voices in my head telling me this is the worst dreck I've ever written. Because I know I can always (almost) fix it later.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research?
I don’t know if this qualifies as strange, but last winter I attended the Key West Citizens’ Police Academy. This involved eight weeks of listening to all kinds of police experts, like police dog handlers, search and rescue teams, SWAT teams, traffic cops...and to top it off, a ride-along with a real cop, which ended up including a visit to the local jail. Mystery writer’s heaven! Readers will see some of these great details in MURDER WITH GANACHE.
You can learn more about Lucy on her website (www.lucyburdette.com), or Facebook (www.facebook.com/lucyburdette), or Twitter (www.twitter.com/lucyburdette), or Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/robertaisleib). She also blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen (www.mysteryloverskitchen.com) and Jungle Red Writers (www.jungleredwriters.com).
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