Book Review: A Dish to Die For by Lucy Burdette

National bestselling author Lucy Burdette returns to Key West with A Dish to Die For—another delectable culinary mystery full of secrets, intrigue, and murder. Read on for Doreen Sheridan's review!

Nationally bestselling author and unrepentant foodie Lucy Burdette is the pseudonym of Roberta Isleib, a clinical psychologist who penned the Golf Lover’s and Advice Column Mysteries. Last fall, Burdette published her first standalone suspense novel, the decidedly uncozy Unsafe Haven. This August, she returns with A Dish to Die For—the twelfth Key West Food Critic Mystery, set firmly in Florida after the previous entry’s sojourn to Scotland.

As the story opens, Key Zest food critic and newlywed Hayley Snow is enjoying an excursion to nearby Boca Chica Beach on Geiger Key. She’s been in a bit of a post-pandemic, post-honeymoon funk, and lunch with her bestie, Eric (a psychologist), and their collective canine companions seems just the thing to raise her spirits. Sure enough, the sun and snacks begin to do their job—until one of the dogs wanders off and promptly begins digging at a dead body partially concealed in the sand. The victim is identified by an on-the-scene birdwatcher (and soon-to-be person of interest) as controversial local developer G.G. Garcia. Good gravy!

It’s not an altogether unfamiliar experience for Hayley, who’s earned quite the reputation as an amateur island sleuth—but bearing witness to a corpse is still traumatic, no matter how many times you’ve had that particular misfortune. Then, there’s the fact that her detective hubby Nathan’s estranged father has come to town, necessitating an unexpected reunion (or first-time meeting, in Hayley’s case) wrought with tension and unresolved feelings. It’d be enough to put anybody off balance. Still, she can’t refuse the call of justice—especially when the aforementioned birdwatcher, David Jager, is attacked and left for dead after soliciting Hayley’s help in clearing his name. 

Despite Nathan’s reservations, Hayley is on the case—even as she juggles community activism and writing deadlines. Her search for a good story leads to the local Women’s Club and their historic cookbooks, which provide much food for thought. Meanwhile, it turns out Garcia was as much a scoundrel in his personal life as he was in his business dealings, meaning there’s no lack of motive or suspects in his death. Fortunately, Hayley has some surprising allies in her investigation, including outside Deputy Darcy Rogers and even her surprisingly endearing father-in-law (along with ever-loyal spitfire octogenarian Miss Gloria and tarot card reader Lorenzo). But the closer she gets to the fire, the more she risks feeling the burn.

A Dish to Die For is a tasty treat for readers who prefer their tropical intrigue confined to the comforts of the page. Lucy Burdette offers a dash of sweet and a dollop of sinister as past sins revisit present-day sinners. Variations in setting, the progression of relationships, and new work opportunities conspire to keep things fresh as a conch fritter—but with all the familiar staple ingredients still in the mix. Indeed, it’s murder most muddled, which always goes down easier when accompanied by munchies and mojitos. On that note: Recipes are included!

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