Burdette is the pseudonym of local author Roberta Isleib, who has published twelve previous titles—including the Golf Lovers and Advice Column series, written under her own name. Murder with Ganache marks the fourth entry in the Key West Food Critic mysteries, following An Appetite for Murder, Death in Four Courses, and Topped Chef. Isleib is a clinical psychologist, and her fiction has been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards.
As Murder with Ganache opens, Hayley Snow, intrepid reporter for Key Zest magazine, is busy juggling multiple deadlines with preparations (including the baking of two hundred cupcakes!) for her best friend Connie’s wedding. With family and friends descending on her little slice of paradise for the occasion—including her mother and beau and her father, stepmother, and surly fifteen-year-old stepbrother, Rory—the likelihood for drama is all but guaranteed. But when Rory fails to return after a night on the town, Hayley and the gang are forced to band together in a desperate search.
This results is the discovery of Rory’s body, found battered and left for dead on a rusty sailboat. Things are further complicated when evidence surfaces that he and a female companion may have stolen a Jet Ski on the evening of his disappearance. When her body is later pulled from the water, the local authorities are quick to consider him a “person of interest” in her death. Given that Rory has fallen into a coma and cannot defend himself, Hayley adds clearing his name to a plate that is already overflowing with obligations—including her inclination to resolve why Connie has called off her wedding without explanation.
While Hayley’s job assignments have her visiting some of Key West’s tourist friendly hot spots—including the cat-centric Hemingway House and several local eateries—it’s the unofficial investigation into the girl’s death that leads her into the seedy underbelly of the town. This look into the lives of runaway teens and the dangers that await them is a sobering reality, but one that Burdette handles with panache, adding substance to an otherwise easily palatable concoction.
In Murder with Ganache, Lucy Burdette nimbly mixes familiar characters with new(er) ones, playing off a multitude of relationship dynamics that enhance the immediacy of her many plotlines. The smorgasbord of mysteries here coupled with a generous sprinkling of social commentary provide serious food for thought, and the inclusion of recipes just might tempt adventurous aficionados. Fans will enjoy the familiarity of the palpably exotic locale—food! felines! foul play!—while new readers will find it hard to resist the urge to revisit the series from its very beginning.