Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette: Reading Room Review


For readers, when people talk about a staycation, a vacation where you take off from work and responsibilities and stay home relaxing instead of traveling to a vacation spot (something so many of us have had to do in 2020), it is a chance to kick back and read to your heart’s contentment. What if you could have a staycation but feel like you’ve traveled to one of the best vacation spots there is? Well, reading Lucy Burdette’s latest Key West Food Critic book, The Key Lime Crime, is a sweet walk down the streets and sights and foods of Key West, Florida. I can feel the rhythm of the island throughout every page of this book and all the others in this enchanting series. Key West time will draw you into the story and keep you swaying to the beat as Lucy Burdette brilliantly mixes murder into Paradise. Of course, Haley Snow always lands right in the middle of it, along with her amazing octogenarian friend Miss Gloria. Now being married to Nathan Bransford, Haley has the added challenge of flying under her husband’s radar to investigate a case which seems to be connected to her personally. 

Haley and Nathan are still staying with Miss Gloria on her houseboat as they wait for their adjacent boat to be remodeled. With Nathan’s dog and Haley’s cat and Miss Gloria’s cat, it’s a full house. When Nathan’s mother sends word she’s coming for a visit, there’s not a bed to be had on the houseboat or at any guest housing in Key West. Haley’s mother and her stepfather come to the rescue and offer to put Mrs. Bransford up at their condo. Nathan’s mother was a no-show at the wedding, so Haley is nervous about meeting her mother-in-law for the first time, and Haley only has a day‘s notice. To add to the pressure, it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and Key West is hopping at its busiest. Haley has articles due for Key Zest, the online zine where she is food critic, and part of what she’s working on involves a contest for the best Key Lime pie in Key West. Nathan is overseeing security on the island for the week, a week that sees an influx of thousands of visitors, so his time with his mother or anyone else will be limited. And, Haley’s mother and step-father have events employing their catering business all week. This holiday week is Key West on steroids. 

Nathan has bought tickets for his mother, Haley, and Miss Gloria to take a ride on the Conch Train tour of holiday lights, and Mrs. Bransford/Helen no sooner arrives than it’s time to hurry over to the tourist train and claim the last three seats. Haley is certain that this form of entertainment isn’t to Helen’s liking, but Haley doesn’t think Helen will much like anything on the island, as rigidity seems to be her mother-in-law’s style. To make matters worse, Helen doesn’t enjoy eating, and with Haley being a foodie, it’s another barrier to a close relationship. But, things heat up after the Conch Train ride, when Miss Gloria wants to drive back over to the last holiday location the train passed. As they approach the house on foot, the blown-up drunken Santa looks a little off, and it doesn‘t take long before the women realize it‘s a dead body. After the police arrive, including Nathan, and bystanders gather, the corpse is identified as Claudette Parker, the bakery chef at the new bakery, Au Citron Vert. Haley had just seen Claudette the day before at the opening ceremony for the Key Lime Pie competition. Claudette was smearing another contestant’s pie into the face of David Sloan, Key Lime Pie expert and contest director, for disqualifying Claudette’s Key Lime Parfait because it didn’t fit the definition of a pie. And, now here Claudette lay dead. However, David Sloan isn’t the only one who had hard feelings toward the new bakery chef, especially one who had bragged that her Key Lime Parfait would make Key Lime Pie passé in its home base of Key West. It can be dangerous to attack an institution , and that pie had many people invested in its continued success. 

As with any body Haley finds, and she’s found a few, Haley becomes entangled in unraveling the who and the why of the murder. She does try to respect her husband’s admonitions to steer clear of the investigation, but a completely unexpected source of encouragement to prod and pry comes her way, Haley’s mother-in-law Helen. Nathan’s mother is relentless in pushing Haley to dig deeper and deeper, and Helen even insists on being right there with Haley for the action. There are layers and twists to this murder that take the characters and readers from one suspect to another. It’s a dangerous undertaking for Haley, and she worries that those she loves may become collateral damage. 

Lucy Burdette always has a great blend of fascinating characters, charming setting, and Key West flavored stories, and you can’t get any more Key West flavored than a mystery with Key Lime Pie at its center. What makes this series so appealing to me is its authenticity. The characters are a mixture of make-believe and real. Of course, the created characters seem real to us as we follow them from book to book.  Who hasn't fallen in love with Miss Gloria and delighted in her presence?  The setting is taken from the author’s own experience there. Cuban Coffee Queen, Key Lime Pie Factory, Duvall Street, Green Parrot Bar, and so many more unique and wonderfully quirky places come alive under this author’s imaging. For those of us who have visited this southern most point of the United States, it is a trip down a beautiful memory lane as we read the thrilling tales taking place there. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to take in this one of a kind atmosphere, Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic series makes you feel as if you have. The Key Lime Crime is #10 in the series, and it’s an absolute treat.

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