Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Guest Post: Jeanne and Treadmill Books: West Food Critic series by Lucy Burdette

Having exhausted the subject of cats, Jeanne now makes things harder by talking about a series with food…..

Treadmill Books: West Food Critic series by Lucy Burdette

Hayley Snow has been unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend Chad, a smooth operator who charmed her into giving up everything to follow him from New Jersey to Key West.  Out of a job, not to mention a place to live, she decides to apply for a job as food critic for Key Zest, a local publication.  Unfortunately for her, the owner of Key Zest is Kristen-- the Chad’s new lover and no fan of Hayley.  When Kristen expires after eating some bad Key Lime pie supplied by Hayley, the police pounce upon her as the chief suspect.

This is a series I picked up again recently.  The first books put me off because Hayley is such a doormat.  She is still desperately in love with a guy who has treated like a piece of garbage.  She knows this, but still goes crawling back to him in hopes that he’ll take her back. In book three (I skipped two), she now hates the guy but he still figures in her thoughts and actions.  I found her whiney and immature.

I wanted to like the books because of the setting but I couldn’t because of the characters.  I didn’t like Hayley and more importantly I didn’t respect her, and that loomed so large I couldn’t appreciate the rest. The best thing was her cat’s name, Evinrude--and at one point she loses track of him in a dangerous situation and if he ever turned back up in that book, I missed it.  (He does show up in later books, so apparently all was well.)

Flash forward some years and I found myself on a plane to Key West.  I decided to give Hayley another shot, hoping that at least I’d find out about some KW attractions. Fatal Reservations is the sixth book in the series and I was pleasantly surprised by it.  Chad is finally out of the picture and Hayley is an established columnist, living on a houseboat with an elderly roommate. The plot revolves around the murder of Bart Frontgate, the flaming fork juggler at the nightly Sunset Celebration.  A fellow performer, Lorenzo the Tarot card reader, is the prime suspect, but of course Hayley disagrees and sets out to clear his name.

Stripped of most of the old boyfriend baggage, Hayley was a much more appealing character even if she does still have a few relationship issues. Miss Gloria, her roommate, is a delight, a lively senior citizen who has decided to volunteer to give tours of the local cemetery. A good bit of the action took place there, and since I do enjoy a good graveyard, I found that particularly interesting.  I learned about the behind the scenes parts of the Sunset Celebration, a  real Key West staple, and was able to amaze my family with bits of information which I really hope were true.

I was so cheered by the transformation that I’m going to read some of the ones I’d missed.  Sadly, the series was canceled after book seven. 

So, to treadmill or not to treadmill?   The earlier books, no; but the later books have enough local color to hold my interest and the characters are more enjoyable. I was sorry to see that the publisher has ended the series just when I thought it was getting good.

The books in the series are:

1.      An Appetite for Murder
2.      Death in Four Courses
3.      Topped Chef
4.      Death with all the Trimmings
5.      Murder with Ganache
6.      Fatal Reservations
7.      Killer Takeout

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