“A Scone of Contention” is the 11th cozy mystery novel in Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic Series and the first not to take place in the Florida Keys. We do, however, get some scenes at the beginning and the end occurring on what we locals call the “rock.”
For those of you who are new to this series, the main character is Hayley Snow Bransford, a food critic for “Key Zest” magazine. Until recently she shared a houseboat on Key West’s Garrison Bight with an octogenarian roommate, Miss Gloria, and their cats, Evinrude and Sparky. They are now neighbors. Miss Gloria owns a catering service. Hayley, an amateur chef, helps her in the kitchen and covers many events catered by Miss Gloria for her magazine. Hayley and Miss Gloria’s arrangements changed, however, in volume 10 (“The Key Lime Crime,” my 12/12/20 column) when Hayley married her longstanding boyfriend, Nathan Bransford, a KWPD detective.
As this book begins, Nathan and Hayley are taking a delayed honeymoon in Scotland so that Hayley can get to know Vera and William, Nathan’s sister and brother-in-law. Nathan’s overbearing mother uses the excuse of seeing her daughter to invite herself to join them, and since she is going, they invite Miss Gloria, who is of Scottish ancestry, to joint them as well. As you might expect, this being a mystery series, the honeymooners’ trip gets off to a rocky start when a guest at Vera’s “welcome-to-Scotland” dinner party gets extremely ill and believes that her distress was possibly caused by the food.
Vera is collaborating on a soon-to-be-released book about the “thin” (obscure) tourist attractions in Scotland. The collaboration is not going well since the various participants have differing visions about what the final product should be. With a deadline looming, Vera takes Miss Gloria and Hayley with her to research some of the remaining book locations, while William and Nathan play in a golf tournament at St. Andrews. While visiting the famous Falkirk Wheel above the Forth and Clyde Canal, they witness a stranger fall to his death. Circumstances lead Hayley to suspect that the man is not unknown to Vera and her friends, but they each deny it. I’ll stop here with my plot synopsis so as not to ruin the book for you.
This book is a mystery as well as a travelogue of Scotland (the author actually made a trip to Scotland to research this book). It seemed about equally balanced between the two objectives. The author covers both well-travelled locations as well as some more obscure ones. Burdette has a recipe that works for her, and this book stays true to her tried-and-true formula. Hayley and Miss Gloria eat their way through Scotland, and at the end of the book, Burdette shares the recipes for the dishes featured throughout the story. The book also stays true to its cozy roots in that the crimes are not written for shock or gore value, and there are no R-rated sex scenes. As in the past, the editing was well done, and it was a quick and easy read. It is easily read as a standalone. If you have read previous installments, I think you will enjoy Hayley continuing to grow and embrace life.
Reviewed by David Beckwith, author of “A Demonic Conspiracy.”