Guest post by Lucy Burdette
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I’ve had very few cat-less times in my life, and those periods when there wasn’t a furry friend to greet me at the door felt lonely and sad. My characters in the Key West mystery series, Hayley Snow and Miss Gloria, feel the same way. In book ten, The Key Lime Crime, a new tiger cat T-Bone takes a starring role. But since my series is focused on food and murder, cats can’t always be in the limelight.
In my new book (#12 in the series), A Dish to Die For, the cats have settled into the supporting cast of Houseboat Row, providing comfort and love and comic relief when it’s most needed. This reminds me of the year I spent as a psychology intern on an inpatient unit that treated troubled adolescents. The director, a psychiatrist, taught us that we were part of the “milieu therapy.” This meant we were always in the background for these patients, providing them with role models and support and feedback even when they weren’t in therapy sessions. We were the river that the young people were paddling on. This is a bit how I think about the animals in my books—they support the characters as they go about their daily business of writing about food and solving mysteries.
Here’s a snippet from the new book that will show you what I mean. Right before this scene, Hayley and her husband’s little dog Ziggy have just found a body on a beach up the Keys and she’s naturally rattled.
Eric dropped me off at Houseboat Row at twenty to three. Ziggy, exhausted from the fun he’d had at the beach, immediately settled into his dog bed. I scooped up Evinrude the cat and brought him out on to the deck to sit in the sun. “It was a nightmare,” I told him. “But you don’t need all the gory details. Just be glad we didn’t take you along.”
Of course, I’d never take a cat to the beach, but it would be bad form to rub that in. I spent a few minutes stroking the cat, eyes closed, as I listened to him purr—feeling the calm of that raspy rumble seeping through my body. Beyond that, I absorbed the sounds of my neighborhood—water slapping the hull, the whining of a saw, and Mrs. Renhart’s wind chimes from two doors down.
And here’s a bit taken from a later point, when Hayley is thinking about returning to explore the scene of the murder:
I glanced at my watch: four fifteen. If I was going back to Geiger Key, I should get there before sunset. That way I could drive to the end of the road first and see if there were details I hadn’t noticed on the last trip that might relate to Garcia’s murder. I wondered whether I should take Ziggy for company. Probably not. He’d gotten into enough trouble the first time we went.
Miss Gloria and her two cats emerged from her cabin onto her deck, blinking in the sharp afternoon light as though they were just up from a nap. I beckoned her over to say hello.
“How was Nathan’s father?” she asked, once settled in a deck chair.
Ziggy snuffled T-bone’s butt until the kitten slapped him, then he retreated into the cabin of my boat. The little yellow tiger jumped onto my lap and began to knead my thighs and purr.
“Impenetrable,” I said, adding a grimace. “He’s handsome like Nathan but less accessible. And that’s saying something, because as you know, Nathan’s not the most touchy-feely guy ever,” I added. “What are you fixing for supper?”
“We hadn’t gotten that far.” She patted her lap, and my Evinrude jumped up and rubbed her chin with his head. “Probably the leftovers from last night.”
“I brought some pimento cheese from lunch, if you want that.” I paused. “Or you could take a run up the keys with me to the Fish Camp. That man who was on the beach yesterday when I found the body thinks the cops are blaming him. He wants to talk. If you came, I could hear what he has to say but avoid having dinner with him.”
She nodded. “It’s probably not good for you to meet that man alone. Nathan would kill you. Then he’d blame me for not talking you out of it. We all know two heads are better than one. Furthermore, I am absolutely dying for a plate of their shrimp tacos. Plus a mojito if you’re driving.”
Which she knew I would be. No way was I going to allow her to get in the driver’s seat of her big boat of a Buick when she could barely see over the steering wheel. She was fine to drive short distances—I hoped, anyway—but not eleven miles of a narrow road in the dark. “Can you be ready in fifteen minutes?”
“I’m ready now,” she said, plucking at her sweatshirt. “I’ll visit the loo and put the kitties away and be right out.”
I hope you’ll enjoy this newest installment in the Key West mystery series. While cats don’t solve any mysteries in A Dish to Die For, they do provide comfort and entertainment, and even the occasional clue. Evinrude the cat would also like to point out that his photo has appeared on every cover, including the newest!
About A Dish to Die For
Key West food critic Hayley Snow’s relaxing picnic outside of town is interrupted when her husband’s dog disappears on the beach. She follows his barking, to find him furiously digging at a shallow grave containing a man’s body. A birdwatcher identifies the dead man as GG Garcia, a rabble-rousing local builder, famous for over-development on the fragile Keys, womanizing, and refusing to follow city rules. Then Hayley’s mother is hired to cater GG’s memorial service reception at the Woman’s Club, using recipes from the club’s vintage Key West cookbook. The real clues materialize when Hayley begins to study the old cookbook, as whispers of old secrets come to life, dragging the past into the present—with murderous results.
About Lucy Burdette
BIO: New Jersey born Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib is the author of 21 mysteries, including A DISH TO DIE FOR, the latest in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow (coming August 9, 2022, from Crooked Lane Books.) The tenth book in her Key West food critic mystery series, THE KEY LIME CRIME, won the Florida Book Award’s bronze medal for popular fiction. Her first thriller, UNSAFE HAVEN, was published by Severn House in December. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime, and currently serving as president of the Friends of the Key West Library. Read more at http://www.lucyburdette.com. You can also find Lucy on Facebook and Instagram.
A Dish to Die For is available from Amazon.
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Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.