Key West, the southernmost island in Florida, reached by a series of causeways straddling the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean, is as much a character in Lucy Burdett's Death with All the Trimmings as the characters themselves. While the people who populate this cozy mystery are fictional, the setting is genuine, complete with the town's popular haunts: Hemmingway House and its many-toed cats; and the mile-long Duval Street.
Descriptions of this winter-escape town, which hopscotched through the book, had me tasting the salt air as I had during my stay in Key West a few years ago. I loved it. A book's setting is usually as important to me as the story. Fully-captured places I've never visited fulfill my wanderlust with an armchair excursion, and reading about a place I've explored, and which an author accurately describes, gives my cobwebbed memories a good dusting.
I also like full-bodied characters in the books I read, and enjoy it best when these characters have some zing in their personalities, like Burdette's main protagonist, Hayley Snow. This heroine is a food critic who lives on a houseboat with a spry octogenarian woman and a striped gray cat named Evinrude. Hayley has an inquisitive, just-gotta-know nature, something like the one of those na´ve girls who goes into the dark cellar after hearing noises, and you just know she is going to get her into trouble. And of course she does.
Death with All the Trimmings' troubles begin when Hayley agrees to help a new chef in town discover who is committing sabotage in her kitchen. Arson and a dead body move the plot along, while cooking and eating take place in between the mayhem. If the food makes your mouth water, you will be happy to know that the recipes for such dishes as Scarlet O'Hara Cupcakes, Spaghetti Bolognese and Jungle Red Cocktail can be found at the end of the book--after all the mayhem and shenanigans have been tied up in a Key West Christmas package.
The pace of the book keeps readers moving from one event to the next without any lag time to get bored. It is a delightfully fulfilling read, although you might end it hungry.
Death with All the Trimmings is the fifth in Burdette's Key West food critic mysteries. She also writes, under a different name, the golf lovers' mysteries and the advice column mysteries. Check out Burdette's web site to learn more about the author.
Lucy Burdette is the pen name for clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib, author of the golf lovers mystery series and the advice column mysteries as well as the Key West food critic mysteries. You can also find her every Thursday talking food with the culinary cozy mystery writers at Mystery Lovers Kitchen. She shares recipes on her blog.
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