An Appetite for Murder: A Key West Food Critic Mystery

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9780451235510: An Appetite for Murder: A Key West Food Critic Mystery

Hayley Snow's life always revolved around food. But when she applies to be a food critic for a Key West style magazine, she discovers that her new boss would be Kristen Faulkner-the woman Hayley caught in bed with her boyfriend! Hayley thinks things are as bad as they can get-until the police pull her in as a suspect in Kristen's murder. Kristen was killed by a poisoned key lime pie. Now Hayley must find out who used meringue to murder before she takes all the blame.

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About the Author:

Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette has written eight mysteries as Roberta Isleib. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Praise for

An Appetite for Murder

“I can’t wait for the next entry in this charming series.”

New York Times bestselling author

Diane Mott Davidson

“For a true taste of paradise, don’t miss An Appetite for Murder. Lucy Burdette’s first Key West Food Critic Mystery combines a lush, tropical setting, a mysterious murder, and plenty of quirky characters. The victim may not be coming back for seconds, but readers certainly will!”

—Julie Hyzy, national bestselling author of the White House Chef mysteries and Manor House mysteries

KEY LIME PIE TO DIE FOR

As the last of the coffee burbled and sputtered into the pot, I hurried out onto the dock to retrieve Connie’s copy of the Key West Citizen. I smoothed the paper on the café table in the kitchen and sat down for breakfast. Evinrude splayed out on the chair next to me, grooming his gray stripes into their morning order. I took a sip of coffee and almost spit it out when I saw Kristen’s head shot looming from the box on the front page reserved for the crime report.

Kristen Faulkner, a longtime native of Key West, who had plans to open a restaurant on Easter Island and recently launched Key Zest magazine, was discovered dead in the apartment of a friend yesterday morning. Police have questioned several persons of interest in the suspected murder.

My heart sank with a desperate clunk—suddenly the murder felt real, and my so-called involvement, very scary. Feeling queasy, I stopped reading and flipped over to the living section pages. My byline blared: “Key West Confidential: Key Lime Pie to Die For” by Hayley Snow. Could the timing of such a headline have been any worse?

AN APPETITE
FOR MURDER


------------------------------

A Key West Food Critic Mystery


------------------------------

Lucy Burdette

AN OBSIDIAN MYSTERY

OBSIDIAN

Published by New American Library, a division of

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, USA

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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First Printing, January 2012

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Copyright © Roberta Isleib, 2012

All rights reserved

OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Printed in the United States of America

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.

 The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For Ang and Chris,

best friends a writer could have

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I offer my humble thanks to all the writers and readers who read drafts and drafts of this book and helped me polish every word: Christine Falcone, Angelo Pompano, Cindy Warm, Susan Cerulean, Hallie Ephron, Susan Hubbard, Mike Wiecek, Mary Buckham, and John Brady.

I’m grateful for the help of Martha Hubbard, chef at Louie’s Backyard in Key West, Florida, who talked to me about real life in a kitchen, and for Steve Torrence and Bob Bean from the Key West Police Department for information about police procedure, and for Jonathan Shapiro for details about arrests from the defending lawyer’s point of view. Any mistakes, misinterpretations, and exaggerations are entirely mine! And thanks to Lyn McHugh for listening to all my stories and making suggestions on cleaning. And to all my Guppy pals for ideas about tarot and book titles. Hank Phillippi Ryan deserves the credit for Key Zest.

The food writing conference at the Key West Literary Seminar came at just the right time—thanks to the universe and the organizers for that!

Thanks again to Paige Wheeler and the good folks at Folio Literary Agency for championing this book—and me. And to my editor, Sandy Harding, and the team at NAL for their excellent advice and enthusiastic support.

I thank my pals at Jungle Red Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America for their inspiration and friendship. And I’m so grateful for the booksellers and readers who make writing a joy. To my new friends in Key West—thanks for sharing paradise! Please know that all people and places in this book are either figments of my imagination or used fictitiously.

As always, nothing would happen without the love and support of my family, especially John.

“Because the goodness of the ingredients—the fine chocolate, the freshest lemons—seemed like a cover over something larger and darker, and the taste of what was underneath was beginning to push up from the bite.”

—Aimee Bender

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1

“A hot dog or a truffle. Good is good.”

—James Beard

Lots of people think they’d love to eat for a living. Me? I’d kill for it.

Which makes total sense, coming from my family. FTD told my mother to say it with flowers, but she said it with food. Lost a pet? Your job? Your mind? Life always felt better with a serving of Mom’s braised short ribs or red velvet cake in your belly. In my family, we ate when happy or sad, but especially, we ate when we were worried.

The brand-new Key Zest magazine in Key West, Florida, announced a month ago that they were hiring a food critic for their style section. Since my idea of heaven was eating at restaurants and talking about food, I’d do whatever it took to land the job. Whatever. Three review samples and a paragraph on my proposed style as their new food critic were due on Monday. Seven days and counting. So far I had produced nothing. The big goose egg. Call me Hayley Catherine “Procrastination” Snow.

To be fair to me, some of the blockage could be traced to the fact that Kristen Faulkner—my ex’s new girlfriend and the woman whose cream sauce I’d most like to curdle—happened to be the co-owner of Key Zest. What if she judged the restaurants I chose impossibly lowbrow? What if she deleted my application packet the minute it hit her inbox? Or, worst of all, what if I landed the job and had to rub shoulders with her ice-queen highness every day?

My psychologist friend Eric had suggested ever so sweetly that it was time to quit thinking and start eating. Hence, I was hurrying along Olivia Street to meet him for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants on the island, Seven Fish. Of course, I’d left my roommate’s houseboat late because I couldn’t decide what to wear. I winnowed it down to two outfits and asked Evinrude, my gray tiger cat, to choose. Black jeans and a form-fitting white T-shirt with my shin-high, butt-kicking, red cowgirl boots? Or the cute flowered sundress with a cabled hoodie? From his perch on the desk, the cat twitched his tail and said nothing. But I bet Kristen would never go for “cute.” I shimmied into the jeans, scrunched a teaspoon of hair product into my still-damp auburn curls, and set out at a fast clip.

Eric also pointed out not too long ago that I didn’t seem to have the knack for figuring in the time it would take to get somewhere when I made plans. Did I think I would get airlifted from one place to another instead of walking or driving my scooter? I pointed out that if he wanted any friends left, he might want to save his psychoanalysis for his paying customers. But I doubted either of us was going to change.

Tonight was the kind of night that made people pine for Key West if they’d ever spent time here and left, and celebrate the good decision making that brought them if they’d stayed. The small, side-by-side conch-style homes I passed along Olivia Street weren’t fancy, but a fringe of palm trees and pink bougainvillea wound with twinkling white lights made them look like fairy tale material. Add in weather just cool enough for a sweater, the gentle burbling of hidden fountains, and a couple of roosters pecking in the dust alongside the road, and it definitely felt like paradise. My slice of paradise. Light-years from a gray and dreary New Jersey November.

I broke into a trot as I approached the cemetery on the right, its listing, weathered stones protected by the iron bars of the surrounding fence. Despite the fascinating history of the tombs, which I’d heard as I rattled by on a conch tour train when I arrived three months ago, the place spooked me out. Town officials did their best to keep folks out of the cemetery at night, but still, our local paper, the Key West Citizen, reported regular incidents such as headstones being tipped over and encampments of homeless teenagers. Each fluttering shadow made my heart jump.

And then one shadow came to life. I let loose a screech loud enough to be heard all the way to Miami.

“Easy, miss,” said a skinny man in a battered cowboy hat. “Could ya spare some change?”

I knew you weren’t supposed to give money to bums, especially ones that smelled like a day’s worth of drinking, as this guy did. Editorials in the newspaper insisted that only perpetuated the problem. The cowboy moved closer, wheezing his boozy breath and smiling to reveal two missing incisors. My heart thrummed faster and I clutched the strap of my shoulder bag. There but for the grace of some capricious God could have been me.

“I haven’t eaten since yesterday,” he said.

Now I felt sick at the prospect of gorging myself at a nice restaurant while he, drunk or not, went hungry. I dug in my pocket and dropped a crumpled dollar bill and some loose change into his dirty palm, wishing I had more, but that’s all there was. Then I waved off his mumbled thanks and rushed by.

Up ahead on the left-hand side of the street, a cluster of people holding wineglasses milled on the sidewalk in front of an unassuming glass and concrete block building—home of Seven Fish. Eric was already there, wearing his white Oxford shirt and nerd glasses—he would never be late worrying about how to dress because his outfit was always some version of the same thing. He carried two glasses of wine: one red, one white.

“It’s a Spanish Albariño,” he said, handing me the white and pecking me on the cheek. “They’re just clearing our table now.” He snuck a glance at his watch but managed not to mention my lateness. I got the point.

“Brilliant.” I sipped, tasting overtones of apricot and peach. “Hope you’re hungry, because we need to try a lot.”

Which I didn’t have to say because he knew the deal: He was in charge of making the reservations just in case someone might recognize me as a potential food critic (in my dreams) and I’d order for both of us so I could sample a range of their dishes. A dark-haired man swathed in a chest-to-knee white apron called out Eric’s name. We followed him inside, past the four-seater bar to a room no bigger than my houseboat, and plainly furnished, without my roommate’s tendency to tropical upholstery. He deposited us at a tiny table at the far end of the room. I took the seat facing the iron fish sculpture on the back wall so I wouldn’t be distracted with people-watching—or, even worse, absorb their opinions about the food.

Within minutes, the waiter came around and described the specials, including yellowtail in a mild curry sauce and sautéed grouper sushi rolls. I salivated with anticipation like a rat pressing a lever in a psychology experiment. “We’re good to go,” I said, and began to list the dishes I needed to try. “We’ll start with the fish tacos, the grouper rolls, and a small Caesar salad with a crab cake on the side. For the main course, the gentleman will have the chicken with bananas and walnuts”—I grinned as Eric’s face fell—“and I’ll try your special curried yellowtail. And we’ll have a meat loaf for the table.”

“Anything else?” asked the waiter, deadpan.

“Two more glasses of wine. And no bread please.” I smiled and handed him my menu. “Oh, what the heck, add the grilled mahi-mahi with roasted potatoes, too.” He finished writing and swished off toward the kitchen.

Eric leaned forward to whisper, “He has to know something’s up.”

“We could be very, very hungry.” I thought of the cowboy lurking near the cemetery.

Eric excused himself to hit the men’s room. I whipped out my smartphone to check e-mail just in case one of the freelance articles I’d submitted on spec to the Key West Citizen had been accepted. The subject line of the third message down jolted me hard: “Food critic applications due Friday.” The deadline for application packets had been moved up. Staff at Key Zest would only consider those that...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 170 x 106 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Hayley Snow s life always revolved around food. But when she applies to be a food critic for a Key West style magazine, she discovers that her new boss would be Kristen Faulkner-the woman Hayley caught in bed with her boyfriend! Hayley thinks things are as bad as they can get-until the police pull her in as a suspect in Kristen s murder. Kristen was killed by a poisoned key lime pie. Now Hayley must find out who used meringue to murder before she takes all the blame. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780451235510

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Book Description Softcover. Book Condition: New. Hayley Snow's life always revolved around food. But when she applies to be a food critic for a Key West style magazine, she discovers that her new boss would be Kristen Faulkner-the woman Hayley caught in bed with her boyfriend! Hayley thinks things are as bad as they can get-until the police pull her in as a suspect in Kristen's murder. Kristen was killed by a poisoned key lime pie. Now Hayley must find out who used meringue to murder before she takes all the blame. Bookseller Inventory # 9426395

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 170 x 106 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Hayley Snow s life always revolved around food. But when she applies to be a food critic for a Key West style magazine, she discovers that her new boss would be Kristen Faulkner-the woman Hayley caught in bed with her boyfriend! Hayley thinks things are as bad as they can get-until the police pull her in as a suspect in Kristen s murder. Kristen was killed by a poisoned key lime pie. Now Hayley must find out who used meringue to murder before she takes all the blame. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780451235510

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