I got off to a slow start reading this book. Life (including NaNoWrimo) got in the way and I was uncomfortable with with how little job security Haley Snow, the main character, had after four previous books in this series. It seemed unfair that she hadn’t yet fully demonstrated her competence and innocence to one of the magazine’s owners. But I persevered and was rewarded with a satisfying ending to the job issue as well as the murder.
As with “An appetite for murder”, the last Lucy Burdette book I read, I really appreciated how she brings Key West to life. If the real Key West at Christmas is as half as fun as “Death with all the trimmings” claims, then I think a Key West Christmas might be in my future. After several other trips.
While Hayley has issues at work, she seems to have developed a great support network since the first book. All of the supporting characters feel fully fleshed out and their actions are appropriate to their characters. I wasn’t sure that I was going to like Miss Gloria, but she turned out to be very charming.
One addition to the support network I found surprising, because I skipped over three books, was Hayley’s mother. In book one she comes off as a well meaning flake whom Hayley seemed to enjoy only marginally more than her father the judgmental lawyer. But at some point, mother Janet moves down to Key West to be near her daughter and to work in the catering business. She is good at this and it might be the shared food connection that helps Janet connect better with Hayley. I can’t know for sure till I go back and read books 2-4.
A character who is likely to be a one off that I thoroughly enjoyed was a New York Times food critic. Ms. Burdette portrayed him as a down to earth character who loved and appreciated his food nearly as much as he loved and appreciated his wife. The food critic’s wife was endearing as well.
It’s hard to describe the plot without too many spoilers, but I felt like the tale of restaurant sabotage gone horribly wrong to hang pretty well. Ms. Burdette does a good job of showing us Haley’s reasoning her way through the various possibilities of who done it and why. Her relationships with the police are someone better than in the first book, in part a benefit of not being a suspect. Enough clues are offered throughout the book that it make senses who was behind the death.
Finally, just as in “An Appetite for Murder,” Ms. Burdette does a great job of describing the various eateries and dishes available in Key West. You can totally smell the coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen and taste the Spaghetti Bolognese at Bistro on the Bight. And in case you want to taste Spaghetti Bolognese, though Janet Snow’s, Ms. Burdette has included that recipe along with several others at the end of the book. While it sounds good, I don’t know if I’ll make the Spaghetti Bolognese, but I’m already collecting ingredients to make Cassie Burdette’s Hot-Dog Casserole as it sounds like a good upgrade from “beans and wieners.”
The one quibble I have with the book is that there is something that the fire department and/or the police should have found early in the novel which I feel would have definitely affected the course of the investigation. I found it surprising they were left in the dark. But it is a forgivable detail. But it does keep me from giving this book five stars.
Now I need to go back and read books 2-4 in the series, as well as keep and eye out for the next book in the series, which looks like it may have stuff to say about social media marketing as well as fine food and warm scenery.