Book Review
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The High Stakes of a Cooking Superstar

"Topped Chef" by Lucy Burdette (New American Library/Penguin, $6.99)

Book News: Local author Roberta Isleib, aka Lucy Burdette, will see her third Key West mystery, "Topped Chef," released on May 7. These Key West books feature Hayley Snow, an aspiring food critic and amateur sleuth living in our southernmost island paradise.

Many local people, events and places appear in the book, including the Key West Food and Wine Festival, Michaels' Restaurant, Randy Thompson at the Aqua bar, Key West Police Officer Steve Torrence, The Studios of Key West, Waterfront Playhouse and the tarot card reader at the Mallory Square sunset celebration.

In "Topped Chef," Hayley Snow is tapped as a judge on a reality TV cooking show. Stakes are high because the winner is slated to become the next cooking superstar. When another judge turns up murdered, Hayley must figure out who's taking the contest too seriously before she becomes the next victim.

For this series, Isleib is using the pen name Lucy Burdette, borrowed from her maternal grandmother. She has just signed a contract for the next two books in the Key West series; "Murder With Ganache" is scheduled for a February 2014 release. In a crowded "cozy" market, Lucy Burdette's Key West food critic series "stands out among its peers," says Florida Book Review.

Isleib's first mystery series included five books featuring Cassie Burdette, an aspiring golf professional. Her advice-column series featured Rebecca Butterman, a fictional psychologist in Connecticut. She is a past-president of Sisters in Crime, the national organization founded to support women crime fiction writers.

"Unintended Consequen-ces" by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $26.)

Another fast-paced, exciting read, this is the 26th and latest novel in the Stone Barrington series by Stuart Woods. "Unintended Consequences" is already on the New York Times bestseller list, as have been most of the 50-plus other novels of this prolific author.

It begins in Paris, where Stone wakes up in a hospital room at the U.S. Embassy wondering where he is, how he got there and why. As he attempts to regain his memory from this drug-induced, temporary amnesia, he receives some interesting invitations that he accepts in an effort to find out the how and the why of his situation in Paris.

One particularly interesting invitation is to a party hosted by Marcel duBois, a French billionaire; there he meets a striking Swede, Helga Becker, who provides the CIA with information. He also meets a young CIA agent, Rick La Rose, not only new to Paris but the new station chief. Another character in the mix is Amanda Hurley, a former CIA agent who may or may not be working for the opposition. Some of these people seem likeable, others seem devious, lurking in a shadowy underworld trying to invade a world of ultra wealth and privilege.

As Stone tries to piece together the mystery of those missing four days, numerous events provide shards of information, including his purchase of a new luxury car, the Blaise, an offer to buy the Arrington, attempts on his life as well as his new friend duBois and two new women he's met, plus a murder that convinces him it's time to leave Paris for his home in New York City.

Along for the trip to New York is duBois, both of them met by the CIA anxious to upgrade the security at Stone's New York home. Also awaiting them in New York are Stone's best friend, Dino Bacchetti, chief of detectives for the N.Y.P.D., Dino's wife Viv, who now works for a private security firm, Strategic Services, and Holly Barker of the CIA. It's a must read from a great American thriller writer. Woods lives in Florida, Maine and New York.

-- Reviewed by David

and Nancy Beckwith, authors of the Will and Betsy Black series

"Cone of Uncertainty" by David Heilwagen (Soul Mate Publishing, coming soon)

This debut romantic thriller is based in Key West. David Heilwagen has been a regular visitor here over the past 15 years and his article on Key West sunsets was published in Florida Travel Magazine. He studied law enforcement at Vincennes University and journalism at the Indiana University School of Journalism. He survived nearly 30 years as a police officer on the streets of Indianapolis before retiring in 2008.

His book's hero, a Nashville Police Dept. detective named Paul Brougher is also a survivor, of a shootout 10 years ago that left him emotionally crippled and his partner dead. His behavior has now become erratic and unpredictable. His wife Amanda decides she's had enough. Fearing for her safety, she secretly flees to Key West, hoping to find the tranquility needed to restart her life as an innkeeper at a small bed and breakfast. But Paul Brougher isn't about to let his wife leave so easily. Yet Amanda has already met a veteran Coast Guard officer who's trying to come to terms with his own shattered past. Now, with a major hurricane barreling towards the Keys, three lost souls face a terrifyingly unknown future.