Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Club Week: Death in Four Courses by Lucy Burdette #BookClub

LUCY BURDETTE: I hope you all are enjoying book club week in our kitchen--I sure am! Though my hometown book club is on hiatus temporarily, we’ve had a lot of wonderful discussions over the years. 

For a while, we decided that the hostess would choose the book and also provide dinner to other members. My turn came when we discussed Carlos Eire’s WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA. I made an elaborate Cuban meal, including pork roast with black beans and baked bananas. Funny how I remember the details of the food better than the details of the book (although it was an excellent memoir.)

But you shouldn’t have to work that hard as a book club host, so I'm making an easy suggestion for refreshments. I’ve chosen DEATH IN FOUR COURSES for discussion (the second Key West mystery) and Hayley's hot fudge pie to go along with it. If you serve this pie, you will be plied with compliments without spending much time slaving in the kitchen. (And it goes with any beverage--coffee, tea, champagne, wine...)

Now, let me tell you a little about the book...

Not too long after I signed the contract to write the Key West food critic mystery series, I learned that the Key West Literary Seminar would be focusing on food writing in January 2011. The event was called THE HUNGRY MUSE, and it featured foodie luminaries such as Frank Bruni, Madhur Jaffrey, Jonathan Gold, Diana Abu-Jaber, and many more.

I pictured my food critic character, Hayley Snow, covering a similar conference for her online magazine, Key Zest. She would be so thrilled to hear and meet her writing idols. But she would have mixed feelings too, as she tried to land interviews with bigwigs, write snappy but thoughtful articles, all while comparing her abilities and her fledgling career to theirs. And maybe Hayley had invited her well-meaning, foodie mother for the weekend, not realizing quite how vulnerable she’d feel working on this important assignment?

With that background in place, I looked for more ways to ratchet up the tension. Suppose the keynote speaker threatened to divulge some of the other writers’ potentially career-threatening secrets over the weekend? And suppose someone would kill to hide one of those secrets? And then what if a dear friend was implicated in this murder?

And then mix in a ton of food, including a multi-course dinner at Louie’s Backyard, dinner at Santiago’s Bodega, and lunch at La Creperie.

All in all (though I’m biased as the author:), I think DEATH IN FOUR COURSES would provide a book club with lots to chew on. (Sorry couldn’t help myself!) Here are a couple of questions you could use to get discussion going:

1.  The role of food in the families of the conference speakers varies widely. How was food seen in your family? Who cooked the meals and what were they like? How has that history affected your relationship with food today?

2.  Which of the fictional speakers’ books would you be interested in reading? Which might you want to have at your book group meeting–and why?

The entire list of book club discussion questions can be found here.

My friend Linda Juliani gave me this recipe for hot fudge pie and I’ve made it many times. It’s perfectly fast and easy and yet has all the advantages of a homemade dessert, hot out of the oven.


1 stick butter
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
4 Tbsp flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
 dash salt

Melt one stick of butter and 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate together. (Linda uses the microwave–just be sure to cover the bowl as it will splatter. I use the old-fashioned pan on a stove method.) 

Add to the bowl 1 and 1/4 cups sugar and 4 tablespoons flour and a dash of salt. Mix. Then add 3 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour the batter into a greased 9 inch pie plate and bake at 350 degrees fro 20-25 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream.

And I'll leave you with my favorite review of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: 

“Near the start of Burdette’s yummy sequel to An Appetite for Murder, Key West food critic Hayley Snow brings her mother down from New Jersey for a visit… Outspoken Mom provides tart commentary as Hayley once again turns sleuth. Anyone who’s ever overpaid for a pretentious restaurant meal will relish this witty cozy.”

Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. You can follow her on twitter, facebook, and Pinterest. If you'd like to invite her to appear at your book club via skype, email her at LucyBurdette at gmail dot com.


  1. I made the Hot Fudge Pie as soon as I finished reading "Death in Four Courses". Oh My Goodness!!!!! Enjoyed them both. I keep the book in my kitchen next to my cookbooks so I have easy access to the recipe.

    1. That's wonderful to hear Sharon--thank you! I have to admit, I keep the books in the kitchen too--easier than paging through Mystery Lovers Kitchen:)

  2. Wow, this looks delicious. I can never resist something with chocolate in it! Would have loved to have been at your Cuban book club meal. Sounds like fun, but you're right, a lot of work!

    1. And it's easy too, Peg, ask Sharon:).

      The Cuban meal was amazing. I can't remember what was for dessert though...

  3. Oh my goodness, Lucy, this recipe looks fabulous. All that butter and chocolate . . . yum. Can't wait to try it!

    1. You won't be sorry Linda...and if you have company and serve it warm, there won't be any left. so you only have to splurge one night:)

  4. Wow! I want to be part of your foodie book club. What fun! And that pie is definitely going to be made the next time I have company (so I won't be tempted to eat it all myself!).


    1. Wouldn't we all have a ball if we lived close enough for a foodie book club????

  5. Lucy/Roberta - Great post. I especially enjoyed the background on how you came up with the premise for Death in Four Courses and then asked those "what if" questions to develop the plot. Wonderful--and that pie is a must-make. What could be better to satisfy a midnight chocolate craving. (Hmmm, come to think of it, I have all of these ingredients...why wait until mdinight?)!

    ~ Cleo

  6. Lucy/Roberta - (Sometimes I wonder if a few of us were born in the south with all our double names ;) Love your series and love the questions you asked. And the pie. Oh, I'm with Cleo. I have all the ingredients. Yum!!!

    Daryl / Avery (whose real middle name is Lynn - for many years people asked if I was from Texas...Daryl Lynn - easy to say with an accent!

  7. Cleo, what if I wanted to add coffee to this? How much? In place of something?

  8. Daryl lynn, that's a good name! I was Bobbie growing up:). Let us know how the gluten free version of the pie turns out...

  9. Lovely, Lucy! I enjoyed being part of your book club today. And hot fudge pie? Oh my.

  10. You are always welcome at my book club MJ/victoria!

  11. Dear Roberta/Lucy: I love to read the blogs to find out something new about an author each time; as to your Cuban meal, I wonder if you made one of the rice puddings that are so popular but I bet it was a Flan (with the caramel) or one of the other Tres Leches desserts. Awhile back, a group of friends and my husband and I got together for couples night and we all brought food from a country that we had never ever made recipes of before. My country was Cuba. I did a plantain dish which I am not sure how good it was but everyone said it was fine, but when something looks like a banana I expect it to taste like a banana and not a potato. Never had had anything but plantain chips before that and should have known. :) It was so much fun and I do love to make recipes that are new to me to challenge myself with new spices, herbs, meat, etc. Love reading about someone else doing that too.

    I have loved this Key West series; also loved the photos way back when you were at the Key West police department with some hunky guys to get training and police procedures for you books. Looked like fun to me. :)

    Keep up the great work. We are just now choosing our books for next year's book club and I am going to consider doing another cozy as my choice as they are so much fun. Loved your guide for a bookclub discussion. Thank you for brightening your readers lives with such great book entertainment.

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane with the mention of the Cuban meal.

  12. Thank you for such a lovely comment and for reading the books--this is exactly why we love to write--for folks like you!

    About the plantains--I'm wondering now if I used bananas instead of the real thing, as I don't remember them tasting like potatoes LOL!

    So glad you liked my hunky policemen--my husband wondered why I was having such a great time every Wednesday...

    thank you thank you thank you--the pleasure is ours! xo Lucy