Release Date: Aug 11, 2020
Series: Key West Food Critic
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Food critic Hayley Snow’s latest assignment is covering a key lime baking contest. The days leading up to New Year’s Eve are already busy and crowded in Key West, Florida and this contest organized by wealthy David Sloan makes things even more hectic. Things really get crazy when David gets into a very public altercation with Claudette Parker, one of the top contestants. Adding to Hayley’s stress is meeting her new mother-in-law for the first time. Hayley and her octogenarian friend Miss Gloria take Helen on a tour to introduce her to the island and the women end up discovering Claudette’s dead body. In spite of warnings from Hayley’s husband, police detective Nathan, the women do a little investigating on their own into Claudette’s untimely death.
This is the tenth in the Key West Food Critic mysteries, but reads as a standalone. I’ve read a couple of the prior books and this one is my favorite. There are a few slow spots in the beginning, but then the action picks up and the story unfolds at a nice, even pace after that. Outgoing, enthusiastic Hayley and the cool, reserved Helen make an unlikely duo, but their skills seem to complement each other and they do a great job gathering information about several potential suspects. Hayley can sometimes come off as immature, but her loyalty and sincerity make her a likable main character. I enjoy her friendship with Miss Gloria and how she helps her without making her feel like a burden.
The murder investigation is interesting and there are some surprises in the story before the killer is ultimately caught. I like how all the loose ends are explained at the end. The Key West setting is a fun backdrop for the mystery. The author does a great job of conveying the island atmosphere and in an afterward discusses some of the things in the book that are inspired by real things, such as the pie making class that Hayley, Helen, and Gloria attend. Other extras are quotes at the beginning of each chapter, although I wasn’t always able to connect them to the story, and recipes at the end that sound delicious. Returning readers may be disappointed at how little time Hayley and Nathan have together, but otherwise should be pleased with this installment. This would be a great beach or poolside read for anyone looking for a light, fun cozy to enjoy.