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Lucy Burdette | Key West: Where Characters Drop from Trees

December 8, 2014

Lucy BurdetteDEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGSDrop from trees like overripe mangos, I should say! A couple of years ago, I began to plan my Key West mystery series. I had the idea for a food critic wannabe named Hayley Snow, but I needed other characters. As I wandered through the crowds at the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square in Key West, I spotted a tarot card reader set up at a card table, wearing a deep blue turban with an enormous teardrop rhinestone bisecting his forehead. What if my protagonist, Hayley Snow, was addicted to having her cards read because she was insecure about her own decisions? And what if her tarot reader saw a card scary enough that even he got rattled? And what if she his reactions to dig herself into deeper trouble? And so Lorenzo the card reader was born as a character.

Then, as I walked around the city, I noticed that homeless people were everywhere, including perched on the stone walls around Mallory Square watching the performers and the tourists. Though they blended into the scenery, they probably noticed all kinds of things that visitors wouldn’t see. And so Turtle and Tony became characters.

And then I attended the Key West Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy. And the cops showed us how to search abandoned buildings and look at a crime scene and even how a SWAT team would operate. Officer Steve Torrence answered my questions, so he entered the cast of characters too.

And there were names and characters given to me that I couldn’t refuse. I offered an auction item to benefit the Waterfront Playhouse–naming rights to a character in TOPPED CHEF. The auction winner sent me a photo and bio of the character he wanted me to include–Randy Thompson, an actual drag queen who performs at the Aqua bar as Victoria. So I took the real Randy to lunch to chat about the psychology of drag queens and watched him (her) perform a few times, and then, what the heck, threw Peter Shapiro, the man who’d bought the character, into the mix too.

And let’s face it, where else but Key West would a bench in front of a convenience store have a Facebook page that could provide a mystery clue? And where else could my Australian shepherd and I march–dressed in hot dog costumes–in a parade of Dachshunds? And where else would that scene work in a book?

I could go on and on–chickens, cats, sunsets, drag queens, and so much glorious food–but I think you get the idea. People like to say, turn the state of Florida on its end and shake it–the loose bits end up in Key West. And thank goodness, all those bits make perfect fodder for a mystery writer. And especially, a mystery set at Christmas! DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is available in stores as of December 2.

About DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS: It may be Christmastime, but thoughts of peace on earth, good will toward men, don’t seem to extend to the restaurant business. Food critic Hayley Snow has been assigned to interview Edel Waugh, chef/owner of Key West’s hottest new restaurant. But off the record, Edel reveals that there’s been sabotage in the kitchen and asks Hayley to investigate. Things heat up fast when the restaurant is set on fire—and a body is discovered in the charred wreckage. Is someone out to destroy the chef’s business—or actually kill her? Amid holiday festivities like the lighted boat parade, and visiting relatives who stir up mixed emotions, Hayley needs to smoke out an arsonist and a killer before they turn up the heat again…on her!

About the Author

Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of 13 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a past president of Sisters in Crime.

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