Murder with Ganache by Lucy Burdette (Obsidian, February 2014)
Key Zest lifestyle magazine food critic Hayley Snow has her plate full---a little fuller than usual. In addition to her usual restaurant reviews, Hayley is writing a feature article on the best cupcakes in Key West and one on the Hemingway cats. She has also agreed to bake two hundred lime cupcakes for her best friend Connie’s wedding. Except Hayley’s cat and the new dog from down the dock have just run through and destroyed most of the cupcakes and Hayley’s dad, step-mother, step-brother and her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend are due any minute. Hayley expects a lot of drama with all the members of her family gathered on one relatively small island, but she does not expect her step-brother to get involved in murder.
The first night on the island, Hayley and all her parents attend Connie’s Jack and Jill shower. Rory, a sulky teenage boy is understandably bored and heads out to the town where spring break is in full swing. His mother Alison is reluctant and admits Rory has been a handful lately, even though he has been living with his father and attending boarding school. Rory vanishes into the crowd sending Hayley and her family and friends on a wild chase looking for him. Hayley hears word of two teenagers and a stolen Jet Ski, something Rory had been talking about since his arrival on the island (renting a Jet Ski not stealing one). Hayley finds Rory unconscious and pretty well-worked over, though not as badly off as his female companion who is dead. Setting aside her oven mitts, Hayley begins to look into Rory’s activities the night of Connie’s shower as she tries to piece together her step-brother’s trail that led him to the hospital and possible murder suspect.
Hayley is full of energy and even when she waivers and begins to fade, she reaches inside, reorganizes and regroups, coming out swinging. It is evident with Hayley’s parents around that Hayley is a good mix of the two: she is kind, caring and introspective as is her father, but she has her mother’s energy and can-do attitude, though she is not as overbearing and sometimes as downright snarky as Janet can be. Hayley followed a boyfriend to Key West and promptly became his ex-girlfriend, but she decided to stay and has found a place for herself on the island, reconnecting with several college friends and catching the eye of more than one single man. Hayley and Connie have been best friends for what feels like forever. Connie’s mother died when she was young and her relationship with her father was practically non-existent; the Snow’s stepped in and have been Connie’s surrogate family ever since. The unexpected arrival of Connie’s father throws things into frenzied disarray, even prompting Connie to make a surprise announcement. As Hayley follows the trail that led Rory into trouble, she learns more about her family, especially her step-mother, making their relationship stronger. As Hayley tends to Connie, the same Hayley magic happens assuring a happily ever after for everyone, including it looks like, Hayley.
Hayley approaches her investigation into Rory’s disappearance and rescue as she does most things: logically and with a lot of heart. Even though she uncovers things that may not show Rory in the best light she perseveres knowing the truth will come out, confident Rory isn't the cause of the young woman’s death. Careful plotting allows several story lines to weave in and out of each until they are all resolved. The sultry ocean breezes, the excitement of spring break, the lore of the Hemingway cats and lots of food---some delicious, some so-so---make for a rich and welcoming setting. Sun, sand and good food: what could be better? Unless there is a little mystery mixed in.