Why I Don’t Write Historical Mysteries

Aug 10, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Lucy Burdette

Lucy Burdette

When I was in sixth grade, we moved from New Jersey to Michigan which meant an unfamiliar school. My dad grew worried that the new teacher wasn’t stretching me enough, so he went in to speak with her. He came home and presented me with a dry (or so I remember) tome about the history of English royalty that I was to read in my spare time. He was a great history buff and whenever the family traveled (six of us and a couple German shepherd dogs), he planned stops at battlegrounds and cemeteries. All of this unfortunately caused my eyes to glaze over. The same thing happened in my high school history classes.

All that to say, I’ve never written a historical novel and maybe never will. On the other hand, I do admire fiction that intertwines the present with the past. When I was searching for a plot for the twelfth Key West food critic mystery, A Dish To Die For, a good friend from my writers group saw a cookbook from the Key West Woman’s Club on a history list that he belongs to and thought I might be interested. I found a copy of the old cookbook on eBay and ordered it instantly. As I read through it, I wondered if something (fictional) happened back in the 1940s during the development of the cookbook could lead to a murder in the present time? I imagined the excitement of the women publishing this book, and pictured a grand party in the Woman’s Club to celebrate. Something goes wrong, but maybe only the two people involved know about it. And maybe this painful secret finally leaks into the current time.

In my story, I determined that my protagonist, Hayley Snow, would discover a vintage copy of the first Key West Woman’s Club cookbook at the library. She becomes intrigued with the possibility that this bit of history might help her unravel the reason that a man died on the beach in the present day. It surely does! While writing this book, I realized that I do find history interesting—not the dates of events and names of battles that I studied in school, but the psychology of the people living in earlier days and how their lives were shaped by the times. Maybe my father was right all along, history can be fascinating. I hope you enjoy this fictional version of Key West history, too!

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.

“Key West food critic Hayley Snow proves once again that she understands crime as well as cuisine. A suitably steamy background for a complex tale of murder and deceit.” —Kirkus

“What’s so delightful about the Key Lime Food Critic mysteries? The setting. The characters. The food. And, of course, the writing.” —Cathy Salustri, The Gabber

“Culinary cozy fans are in for a treat.” —Publishers Weekly

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New Jersey born Lucy Burdette, aka Roberta Isleib, is the author of twenty-one mysteries, including A Dish To Die For, the latest in the Key West series featuring food critic Hayley Snow (released 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.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, which are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

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