Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of the Key West Food Critic Mystery series. A former clinical psychologist, she’s published sixteen mysteries. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Her latest Key West Food Critic Mystery is Death on the Menu.
Behind the story of Death on the Menu
“Over the course of the sixteen books I’ve written, I didn’t set out to highlight an issue as I wrote. However, I can’t think of one book where a theme or an important issue didn’t emerge during the process. The Key West Food Critic mysteries are obviously set in Key West. And luckily for me, Key West is full of conflict. Sitting as it does at the end of the string of tropical islands, it is a draw for tourists and homeless folks and rich folks and artists and musicians and everything in between. It also turned out to be a magnet for Cuban refugees who were trying to escape the political repression in their own country.
“Up until 2014, the ‘wet-foot dry-foot’ policy was in place in the US. This meant that refugees who landed with one foot on American soil were not turned back to Cuba. Unfortunately, it also put lives in danger because of the ramshackle crafts on which people attempted the 90 mile crossing between Havana and Key West. This conflict about immigration is woven throughout Death on the Menu. But understand, I did not set out to write a book about immigration–it’s just how the writing process works!”
Lucy said he idea for the book started with the Cuban boats and refugees that dominate the Key West news almost every week. “There is a display of these boats, called chugs, at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. They will break your heart. Also, my husband and I took a trip to Cuba in 2014 and learned more about that island’s history and its relationship with Key West and the United States. All of that led me to imagine that a fictional conference attempting to draw Havana and Key West into discussions could be a great backdrop for a murder mystery.”
“As a former clinical psychologist, the development of the characters is what interests me most about a mystery series,” Lucy said. “I don’t enjoy reading about a character who doesn’t change over the course of the series, and probably the part of the book that comes easily to me is imagining how Hayley is growing, along with the cast of characters around her. When people ask me if my books stand alone, I always say the mysteries themselves do stand alone. But if you have a strong interest in the characters’ relationships and development, better to start at the beginning.”
After Killer Takeout, the seventh book in the series, Penguin and Random House merged and terminated many of their cozy mystery authors’ contracts. Lucy said, “This was a business decision made after the merger and it affected a large number of cozy mystery writers. So I am thrilled to have this chance to extend the stories through Crooked Lane Books. This is the first time I’ll have a book out in both hardcover and audiobook formats. I’m so excited and very nervous about how it will go. All fingers and toes are crossed, hoping that you’ll love it…”
When Lucy was writing her golf mystery series, she spent her advance on playing in the professional-amateur tournament that the ladies professional golf Association holds before each major tournament. She said, “I got to play with two name pros—my husband caddied for me—and ask them all kinds of questions about life on the golf tour. It was truly a wonderful experience!
“But the most fun I’ve had with the Key West series has to be attending the citizens’ police academy sponsored by the Key West police department. We learned all kinds of tidbits about traffic stops, making arrests, how the SWAT team works, and more. And I went on a ride along with a lovely young officer toward the end of the classes. It was a night shift, and I think he was a little bit astonished when I told him I needed to be home, tucked in bed, by midnight….”
Learn more about Lucy Burdette at lucyburdette.com.