An Appetite for Murder - Lucy Burdette

We enjoy reading authors’ efforts at the first in a series. An Appetite for Murder was the first of Burdette’s Hayley Snow series and gave us a lot to think about. We enjoyed it as a funny cozy, along the same lines as Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series. Burdette uses the Key West setting to its fullest and readers can almost feel the sun and ocean as Hayley goes tearing around by foot or moped. We found this a great example of the ways in which the setting can be more than a backdrop – Key West is almost another character.

Burdette’s wonderful descriptions of how people move around and her construction of dialogue in ways that are fun and move the story along were very instructive for us.  An Appetite for Murder gave us great examples of how to provide details about people without being hackneyed.

The food element is a great idea and, for the most part, did not feel like a gimmick. Using food as the focus gives Burdette lots of possibilities for interesting characters and we wonder how she sustains the food element as the series goes on.

With regard to the plot, we found Hayley a bit too impulsive at times and wanted to tell her to stop and think on more than one occasion. Perhaps that is the point of her character – charging headlong and then thinking afterward. We felt that the last minute reveal was a bit contrived but, overall, enjoyed the story.

 

A Man Lay Dead - Ngaio Marsh

We both enjoyed this mystery and others in the Inspector Alleyn series. We have been watching these as well and they are delightfully British. A Man Lay Dead is a traditional country house murder, in the best sense. It moves along briskly and we enjoyed the characters and the 1934 British lingo. It is a solid mystery and Marsh does a good job including the character Nigel just enough to be interesting, but not so much that he distracts from the mystery.

It is good for us to see how a shorter and tightly written story can be both entertaining and full of twists. The timing of the actual murder is a very important piece of the puzzle and the logistics of the murder are also quite unique. Marsh gives us a tutorial on the creation and use of great red herrings. There isn’t the level of character development found in some other mysteries, but the characters’ motives are still believable and the story and setting are so fun that it doesn’t matter!

The interactions between Nigel and Alleyn put us in mind of Antony Gillingham and Bill Beverley from The Red House Mystery. They are not too distant from the Sherlock and Watson sort of dynamic, with a clever detective and his well-meaning, but less clever, sidekick. This adds to the suspense because the reader is following along with the Watson-like character and can’t wait to see what the clever detective will do next. This is something we perhaps should consider including in our own writing.