What you don't see in this image though (and by the way, Lucy Burdette, have you thought of producing it as a jigsaw puzzle? the details are darling!) is the tangled situation Hayley Snow confronts as the action opens: her new boss's uncomfortable expectations at the local newspaper (not just urban-level writing style but also classier outfits!), the prolonged absence and odd reactions of her boyfriend (and old boss), and her uneasy relationship with members of the local police force. In FATAL RESERVATIONS, that relationship is strained by the usual problems facing an amateur sleuth -- the police aren't thrilled to have Hayley snooping into a sudden death that they're labeling murder. Why can't she just step back and let them arrest her fortune-telling friend Lorenzo?
But there's another ongoing issue for Hayley as she pulls on her crime-solving heels once again: She's drawn to those smart and decisive characters on the local police force, even when they're trying to evict her from the scene. And having at least one of them decide to be protective of her is making it tough for her to hide Lorenzo in her houseboat home, even with the willing help of her octagenarian housemate Miss Gloria.
"I'm sorry we were a bother, Officers," I said. "I'm a friend of Officer Torrence, and he's always telling me, 'Call the police even if you're not sure you need help.' I have a little reputation for trying to do things myself." I pasted on a silly grin and bobbled my head.Miss Gloria also adds great expressions to the conversations, from "case the joint" to "Sheesh" and "Coast is clear." She's a marvelous houseboat roommate, even with her current passion for exploring and talking about burials at the cemetery. But that too may come in helpful.
"You may very well have had an intruder in here," said the big cop, his face looking fierce. "You ladies need to be more careful about locking your door."
"We need to get the latch fixed," said Miss Gloria, fibbing so quickly my head was spinning. "It just gave out this week."
Burdette is clearly on a roll here -- like her most recent two books in the series, Death With All the Trimmings and Murder With Ganache, FATAL RESERVATIONS is tightly plotted, quick-paced, and full of unforgettable characters, dead and alive. Don't wait to get the other books in the series before reading this one. Hayley's interactions and quick recaps fill in what you need to know from her past, and there's so much going on that you might as well leap right into the bay ... err, book.
Of course, a big part of the pleasure of this series is the foodie chat, from the meals Hayley is preparing or reviewing, to the recipes packed into the back of the book. This time, the one I want to taste-test is "Once in a Blue Moon Blue Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes with Cinnamon Butter"; I've just adjusted my shopping list accordingly! Strain lines for Hayley this time around include how to review a less-than-great meal at a new floating restaurant, and whether her printed words could be responsible for the owner's loss of control.
I had a lot of fun reading my copy -- which I was delighted to "win" by a drawing that the author provided (thanks, Lucy! aka Roberta Isleib). I won't be able to lend it around the neighborhood, though ... I am still considering another of the recipes in the back!
PS - Visiting the Lucy Burdette website is always fun (click here), but I also enjoy keeping up with this author's food chat on Facebook and at the Mystery Lovers Kitchen blog. Hope you'll have a chance to check them out.