Pros: Wonderful characters; mostly good mystery
Cons: Mystery pacing uneven at times
The Bottom Line:
Great to visit with Hayley
Such a fun series
Political Conference Derailed by Theft and Murder
Among the cozy mystery series that have been canceled over the last couple of years, one I’ve been most upset about is the Key West Food Critic Mysteries. I love Hayley Snow and the gang, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to visit the island of Key West. In fact, it’s put the island on my must visit bucket list. So when Crooked Lane picked up the series, I couldn’t wait to visit again in Death on the Menu.
The island is buzzing about the upcoming conference between the leaders of Key West and the leaders of some towns in Cuba. Because of their proximity to each other, relations between the two islands is of upmost importance, and the recent changing of relations with Cuba and the US has allowed these meetings to take place. Hayley’s mom has landed the plumb job of catering the meals for the weekend event, and Hayley is helping out in addition to working on some Cuban themed assignments for Key Zest magazine.
However, not everyone is thrilled with the conference. Protestors are coming to the island, and security is tight. In fact, police detective Nathan Bransford, Hayley’s boyfriend, is encouraging Hayley and her mother to back out, even at this late date.
And Friday gets off to a rocky start. First, an artifact loaned to Key West goes missing. Then a busboy is found murdered. Hayley is moved by the victim’s family to step in and make sure justice is done. Are the two events related? Can Hayley figure out what is going on?
Despite what I said earlier, I hadn’t realized just how much I missed Haley and the rest of the gang until I started reading this book. It was so wonderful to be back in Key West, at least fictionally. This time, we get to visit the Harry Truman’s Little White House as well as Hemingway’s house, and I’ve now added them to my must visit list when I make it there in person. (I think I’ll have to be there a month to visit every place I want to visit.)
This book has a slightly different tone from the earlier books in the series because of the Cuban meeting and the politics involved. The author does a decent job of presenting both sides, although I do feel that a few points could have been better represented. Then again, that may just be my perceptions since my thoughts on the topic were the ones not presented as strongly as I would have liked. They are still there, however, which I appreciated. Either way, you aren’t in for lectures.
However, the drama that the conference generates and the drama of Hayley’s mom trying to get the meals together do detract from the mystery at times. The further we get into the book, the more the mystery takes center stage, as it should, and we wind up with a wonderful climax.
As much as I was raving about the setting earlier, it was just as fantastic to be visiting the characters again, something I will never be able to do in the real Key West. Hayley’s love life has been much more complicated than usual for a cozy series, and I enjoyed seeing how it developed here. All the regulars are back, although we don’t see much of the Key Zest gang, as you might suspect given the set up for this book. We do get plenty of Miss Gloria, Hayley’s older roommate, and I’m not complaining about that at all since she’s one of my favorite characters.
And there are the recipes. With the Cuban flavor of the book, we get recipes for Cuban roast pork, a Mojito cake, and a delicious sounding flan among others.
Those, like me, who have been missing this series will be delighted to pick up Death on the Menu. And if you haven’t started this series yet, you need to do so now.
Here are the rest of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries in order.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.