Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Death in Four Courses"

Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries, most recently Death in Four Courses, published by NAL/Obsidian last month. As Roberta Isleib, she has written eight other novels in the golf lover's and advice column mystery series. Her books and stories have been nominated for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Death in Four Courses and reported the following:
From page 69:
If Key West can be said to have a ghetto, the walk down the blocks of Petronia Street from Blue Heaven to Santiago’s Bodega led us right through it. It was one thing to ride along this path in full daylight, in the back of a pedicab, as we had this afternoon, another to march the same distance in the darkness.

Mom did her best to keep up a chipper smile as we passed along the drab blocks of small homes, yards littered with odd bits of trash, and dour dark-skinned residents who looked as though they’d just as soon not have pale strangers tromping through their neighborhood.

“Maybe we should have had the detective pick us up,” she said in a soft voice that let me know she was a little nervous even though she didn’t want to be.

I linked my arm through hers. “We’re perfectly safe and we’re almost there. And he was coming straight from work.” Which was a tiny stretcher. In truth, I preferred to meet him at the restaurant on my own terms.
For a little background, the reader is hearing the story from the perspective of food critic Hayley Snow, who is attending a big Key West food writers' conference with her mother. Unfortunately, Hayley discovered the keynote speaker floating in a dipping pool at the opening reception. She and her mom have been nosing around for clues to the murder--now they are on the way to have dinner with a detective on the case, who is also her love interest.

I have such fun writing about real restaurants and their real food in these Key West mysteries. The characters in this scene are on their way to Santiago's Bodega, which is a tapas restaurant and one of my favorites! Walking to the restaurant feels exactly like this--you can't believe that you are on the right street. And then, the restaurant appears. And the food is fabulous--as you'll see, Hayley and company order way more than they can reasonably eat.

This page also gives a little glimpse into the character of Hayley's mom, Janet Snow. She would so prefer not to be uncomfortable as she walks to dinner, but she can't help a frisson of fear. And Hayley can't believe her mother is tagging along on the first date with the detective...the evening already feels out of control and it's barely started.

Maybe it's a funny way to write a story, but I love setting my books in actual places, in this case, Key West. I love hearing from readers who felt as though they were visiting the island from their living rooms--or who have taken one of the books on vacation and traced Hayley's path. The characters themselves are entirely fictional, but they live in a real place--if that makes sense! The one thing I've sworn never to do is poison someone in a real restaurant. And there is the sticky matter of negative reviews--sooner or later, Hayley will have to pan a restaurant. I'm thinking I'll make that one up.
Read more about Lucy Burdette's books on her website, blog, Twitter perch, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite For Murder.

Writers Read: Lucy Burdette (January 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue