Many Wickeds readers know author Lucy Burdette is a friend and mentor to all the Wickeds. Her latest book, the tenth Key West Food Critic Mystery, The Key Lime Crime, will be released on Tuesday. We’re thrilled to welcome her back to the blog.
Lucy is giving away a copy to one lucky commenter on the blog. To enter, answer the reader question toward the end of the post or simply say, “hi.” (Or anything else that strikes your fancy.)
Take it away, Lucy!
Thank you dear Wicked writers for inviting me to guest on your blog to celebrate the publication of my tenth Key West mystery, The Key Lime Crime. I’m hoping you’ll be interested in chatting about characters—I’m always amazed at how much some of them grow and change over time and even evolve into independent people who I didn’t expect.
Eighty-something year old Miss Gloria has become the character I probably hear most about in my Key West food critic mysteries. In the first book, I envisioned her as an old lady living a few boats up the dock on Houseboat Row from where my main character, food critic Hayley Snow, was living. I needed her as a throwaway character who would get bashed on the head and propel the plot along. Here, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, is Miss Gloria in that first book, An Appetite for Murder, Haley is a suspect in a case of poisoned key lime pie:
Two boats in along the wooden finger and more often than not one season ahead of the rest of the world, Miss Gloria had strung Christmas lights on her porch. They winked a cheerful welcome. She was watching the news in her living room, one eye on the dock. I waved and called hello through the screen.
“Your place looks fantastic,” I told her.
She smiled modestly and ducked down to stroke her feline, a slim black cat named Sparky. “How’s Evinrude settling in?”
“He’ll never be a sailor,” I said with a laugh, “but we’re surviving.” Then, since Miss Gloria hardly ever left her boat, it occurred to me to wonder if she’d be able to vouch for me with the police. I hopped over onto her porch, her boat rocking almost imperceptibly under the change in weight. “Did you happen to notice that I was here this morning working?”
“This morning?” she asked, looking puzzled. “I don’t know, were you? That nice young policeman came by, though. He’s got such a strong chin.”
“I know,” I said glumly. Her touch of dee-mentia, as she called it, wasn’t going to help me in this situation.
Only as the books evolved, it became clear to me and everyone else that Miss Gloria does not have dementia. Reviewer Phil Jason had this to say in the Florida Weekly about her in Death on the Menu: “Miss Gloria is also a comic character, an older woman who doesn’t take her limitations seriously and becomes a kind of role model for senior citizens.”
Over the course of the series, Hayley and I have realized how lucky she is to have Miss Gloria in her life—this amazing and unlikely roommate. When we first met her, we both sized her up as a frail but quirky old lady, a relic living out her last shaky legs on Houseboat Row. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
Whenever I need a character to speak up on a subject or stand up for someone, Miss Gloria is there. She has a job giving tours at the Key West cemetery, plays mahjong with her “girlfriends” and drives an enormous old Buick Park Avenue that I borrowed from the car my in-laws drove for years. (My mother-in-law was also a spunky woman role model.) I always get a smile on my face writing about her. I imagine her looking like my friend Marilyn, who is 80-something and full of life. Here’s Miss Gloria in the tenth book, The Key Lime Crime:We zipped up to Houseboat Row where Miss Gloria was waiting in the driver’s seat of her big Buick with the engine running. She had the windows open and some kind of rock music pumping out from the radio.
“Want me to drive?” I asked.
“No thanks,” she said cheerfully. “I don’t want to get rusty. And we don’t have far to go, so how much damage can I do?” She cackled as we got in, then craned around to grin at Helen in the back seat, gunned the engine, and lurched out onto Palm Avenue. I gripped my door handle and gritted my teeth, waiting for the sound of blaring horns and the crash of metal. Mercifully none of that came.
“We’ve got a lot on the schedule today, don’t we?” Miss Gloria asked. “I figure we’ll park in the garage on Caroline Street and then walk to the Pie Company, right?”
“Right,” I said. “And Helen and I have agreed, we aren’t investigating. On the other hand, if some tidbit related to Claudette falls in our laps, we’ll gather it up and pass it on to Nathan.”
“Remember to think about the person behind the crime,” Helen a.k.a. my mother-in-law said, leaning forward and grabbing the driver side headrest. “We’re not only collecting recipes, we’re understanding a murderer. And his victim.”
“Oh, Hayley is unbelievable at that,” said Miss Gloria, glancing in the rear view mirror. “She has more friends than anyone I know—and that’s because she knows what makes people tick. And even if she doesn’t care for somebody, she works at understanding why they’re crabby. And the next thing you know, they’re friends. I’m certain Nathan’s told you how she solved a couple of crimes. Not that he appreciates that one bit.”
She chuckled, and I squeezed her arm to thank her for sticking up for me, but then let go fast so she would concentrate on swinging around the curve that led into Eaton Street without taking out cars in the oncoming traffic.
How about you Wickeds? If you write, have you watched one of your characters grow into someone you didn’t expect?
Readers: can you think of a character who has grown over time into someone you love and depend on?
About The Key Lime Crime: With her intimidating new mother-in-law bearing down on the island and a fierce rivalry between Key lime pie bakers to referee, food critic Hayley Snow is feeling anything but festive…
It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s and Key West is bursting at the seams with holiday events and hordes of tourists. Adding to the chaos, Key lime pie aficionado David Sloan has persuaded the city to host his Key Lime pie extravaganza and contest. Hayley Snow can’t escape the madness because her bosses at Key Zest magazine have assigned her to cover the event. Every pie purveyor in Key West is determined to claim the Key lime spotlight—and win the coveted Key Lime Key to the City.
Another recipe for disaster—Hayley’s hubby, police detective Nathan Bransford, announces that his mother will be making a surprise visit. Newlywed Hayley must play the dutiful daughter-in-law, so she and her pal Miss Gloria offer to escort his mom on the iconic Conch Train Tour of the island’s holiday lights. But it’s not all glittering palm trees and fantastic flamingos–the unlikely trio finds a real body stashed in one of the elaborate displays. And the victim is no stranger: Hayley recognizes the controversial new pastry chef from Au Citron Vert, a frontrunner in Sloan’s contest.
Hayley must not only decipher who’s removed the chef from the contest kitchen, she’s also got to handle a too-curious mother-in-law who seems to be cooking up trouble of her own.
“Charming characters, an appealing setting, and mouthwatering bonus recipes make this a perfect choice for foodie cozy lovers.” Publishers’ Weekly, May 2020
“The well-described Key West setting nicely complements the foodie frame in this satisfying cozy, which is a natural for fans of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries.”
Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of 18 mysteries, including THE KEY LIME CRIME (Crooked Lane Books,) 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 and the current president of the Friends of the Key West Library.