Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Confusing mystery, great characters, fun location
Cons: Hayley and her mom early on (but that changes by the end)
The Bottom Line:
Critic killed at conference
Literature Conferences are Murder – Even When Food Is Involved
Two of the big trends in cozy mysteries are food and books (with food being the bigger of the two by far). Author Lucy Burdette manages to combine the two wonderfully in Death in Four Courses, the second in her Key West Food Critic Mysteries.
West hosts a literary conference, and this year, the
theme is food. That’s perfect for Hayley
Snow, who has just started her new job at Key
Zest magazine. The conference
includes restaurant reviewers like Hayley, cookbook authors, and novelists and
poets who use food in their work. Even
better, Hayley’s mom is in town. Hayley
got her love of food from her mother, so the two are looking forward to some
time together at the conference.
The key note speaker is Jonah Barrows, who has had a long career as a restaurant critic and as a chef, and he’s only in his 30’s. During his speech, he states that he is going to be brutally honest, essentially calling out some of the panelists on their secrets. At the opening reception later that evening, Hayley finds Jonah floating face down in a reflecting pool. With the police focused on one of Hayley’s friends, she and her mother feel the need to dig out the truth themselves. But did one of the panelists have a secret worth killing for?
The mystery starts strongly and never really lags. Every so often, I thought we might be sidetracked by a panel or other conversation about food, but just at that point, Hayley would summarize stuff for us and get us right back on target. I had no clue who the killer was until Hayley figured it out, although things made perfect sense in the end.
The cast is filled with real characters who make us care about the outcome. It also makes the suspect list more viable since all of them seem to be likely killers. Hayley herself is an interesting main character. She’s just hitting her mid-twenties and this is the first time she is out on her own. She’s matured a lot since the first book already, although she still has some room to grow. I found her a little too relatable, I must confess, since I am older than she is.
Which brings us to Janet, Hayley’s mom. I actually found her a bit annoying at times at the beginning of the book. She treated Hayley like Hayley was still a kid, which bugged Hayley and therefore me. However, as the book progressed, Hayley did a few things toward her mother as well that I didn’t like, which she immediately felt sorry for. By the end of the book, the mother/daughter relationship is stronger for what they’ve gone through, and I liked that character arc for both of them. There was real growth, so don’t be too hasty in judging either of them.
Of course, being a foodie cozy, there are recipes in the back that range from a stew to meatloaf and Hot Fudge Pie. Guess which one I’m most anxious to try. That pie sounds easy to make and like it would taste divine. I must start baking again soon.
I hadn’t given
West much thought until I started reading this series,
but now I confess I’d love to visit.
Until I get the money to do that, I can enjoy these much cheaper
vacations, like the one offered in Death in Four Courses.
If, like me, you are coming to this series late, you'll want to read the Key West Food Critic Mysteries in order.