Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review: Death in Four Courses by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mysteries #2)

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:
Cookbooks in Key West
Critic killed at conference
Tasty mystery

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.

Every year, Key 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 Key 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.


  1. I read the first book. There was something about it that bugged me a little bit. I can't remember what at the moment. I'm not sure I want to read more of this one. Maybe I'll end up trying this one at some point.

    1. Hayley was pretty immature and reckless in the first book, something she has grown from in this book. But I know that there are people who aren't fans of her character, so maybe that was it.

  2. The series has been on my radar since I first heard of it on the Jungle Reds blog, but I admit, I hadn't picked it up yet because I'm not that into either Florida or food-related mysteries. Good review, and thanks for making me rethink my reluctance!

    1. I will mention that several people seem to have problems with Hayley being immature, but I buy it because of her age.

      I do like culinary cozies, so you still might struggle with it a bit more than I do. It's right up my ally.