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.
Murder with Ganache (Key West Food Critic Mystery - Book 4) by Lucy Burdette
Publication Date: 02/04/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
Lucy Burdette on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Books in the series:
An Appetite for Murder (2012), Death in Four Courses (2012), Topped Chef (2013), Murder with Ganache (2014)
Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.
Excerpt from, Murder With Ganache, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.
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.
Lucy Burdette is back with her fourth book in the Key West Food Critic series, Murder with Ganache. What does a beach wedding, a stolen Jet Ski and a missing set of teenagers have in common? A really good whodunit! Burdette's passion for Key West is evident on every page as she describes not only the sites and sounds but the people and their exotic culture. Murder by chain is afoot and Hayley's step brother may be right in the middle of it. Readers who love this series are in for a real treat with the latest addition to the series.
What I liked:
The Florida Keys have always seemed like one of those exotic junglesque locales right out of a movie to me and Lucy Burdette continues to strengthen that idea in my mind. With every Key West Food Critic book, I sink a little deeper in my fantasy of living on the beach, eating usual foods and reading a good cozy mystery, probably one of Burdette's. Her descriptions transport the reader into a different world really. Key West is so unique. The attitudes the laid back way of life. Burdette will have most readers under her spell in no time. She has a real gift for setting and time and place.
Hayley is in the middle of preparing for her best friend Connie's wedding when her very immense and unconventional family roars into town. I loved the fact that Hayley's blended bunch had their issues but still pulled together when the needed to. Her step-brother, Rory has turned into a typical teenager who gets himself into a bit of trouble. If you want to call being accused of murder a little trouble. I thought the whole idea of Rory taking off and trying to impress a girl was extremely realistic. Spring break crowds, a big party and too much time on his hands. I thought Burdette really showed her strength in characterization with Rory.
I loved the idea of Rory's companion being from Project Lighthouse. I thought that was a nice touch and it added to the overall mystery in a lot of ways. It gave the story some unusual suspects besides Rory and Hayley's visit was interesting and gave the reader another angle and perspective to the mystery. Hayley is always trying to help people out and she and the director have become close. I liked the tie in with this one and hope they work together again in the future.
The Food Critic angle always gives these books a great food related back story. The cupcakes for the wedding are only a few of the goodies described here and you've got to try some of the recipes in the back. I have got to try me some, Spanokopita, what a name!
What I didn't like:
Some readers who are new to the series, may have some issues with following along and figuring out who everyone is and how everyone is related or unrelated. Why this person doesn't like this person or does like this other person. In other words it can get a little confusing. I recommend reading them as a series in stead of stand alone's for just that reason.
This is an excellent addition to the series. I find myself liking this one more with each new book. Murder with Ganache isn't my favorite, but it definitely gave me a reason to continue reading this series. I look forward to what's to come for Hayley, maybe even a little romance.
Murder with Ganache is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apple from my book bag!
About the Author:
Clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib, aka Lucy Burdette, has had ten previous mysteries published. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Other titles in the Key West Food Critic Mystery series include Topped Chef, Death in Four Courses, and An Appetite for Murder.
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