Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: May 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Written by Lucy Burdette
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After writing eight installments of the Key West food critic mystery series (the eighth, Death on the Menu, was out yesterday), I’ve developed so many characters that it’s almost hard to keep track of them. “Oh wait,” I’ll say to myself, “what the heck is Lorenzo or Miss Gloria or Officer Steve Torrence doing when all this is happening?” The one thing I never forget to include is the cats. In my real life, I begged for my first cat for my thirteenth birthday, and I haven’t been without one since. So my series wouldn’t feel right without them either.


Evinrude, the main character Hayley Snow’s gray striped tiger cat, made the trip from New Jersey to Key West when she moved to the island at the beginning of the series. Now he’s the top cat in the Houseboat Row neighborhood where they live. He’s the pack leader for Hayley’s roommate’s cat, a small black fellow named Sparky. On the houseboat next-door, the neighbor lady has been adopting elderly animals that no one else would think of taking in. She now has two old felines and one old schnauzer, and all of them fall in line when Evinrude snaps his paws.


In the new book, Death on the Menu, a cat named Barkley makes his first cameo appearance. He is the real mascot at the Harry S. Truman Little White House, where much of the action in the book takes place. He’s named after Alben Barkley, who served as Harry Truman’s vice president from 1949 to 1953. Barkley the cat’s a little skittish, so I haven’t gotten close enough to explain that he is soon to be famous, but this is what he looks like. Very handsome!

Key West is super pet friendly. You’ll find dog water bowls outside many bars, and dogs lounging in the outdoor spaces with their owners. And if the residents suspect a cat that shows up in their neighborhood is a stray, bowls of kibble magically appear. But the biggest stars of the island are always the cats that reside within the gates of the Hemingway house. Like my main character, Hayley Snow, my blood pressure drops a few points just stepping inside the brick wall and walking among the plethora of polydactyl cats.

Joe Dimaggio, one of the Hemingway cats, endorses Death on the Menu

It sounds a little hokey maybe, but the first thing I do when I get my author copies, is ride my bike over to the Hemingway house and ask a few of their cats in residence to pose with the new cover. I haven’t been turned down so far!

AboutDeath on the Menu

Food critic Hayley Snow is thrilled to be working at a three-day international conference at the Harry S. Truman Little White House. But things get off to a bad start when Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal (which belongs to Cuba and is on display for this weekend only) disappears. And they only get worse when a body is discovered in the storeroom. Hayley must spring into action before the killer adds another victim to his menu.

About Lucy Burdette

Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) has published 16 mysteries, including the latest in the Key West food critic series, Death on the Menu (Lane Books, August 2018.) Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She blogs at and shares her love for food with the culinary writers at She lives in Madison CT and Key West FL. Read more at You can also find Lucy on Facebook and Instagram.


Coming Friday: Win an autographed copy of Death on the Menu!

*The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves. I received this book from the publisher. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.

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4 Comments on The Cats of the Key West Mysteries by Lucy Burdette

  1. I would love to see Misty featured. This cat has persevered through a lot. Her mom was a feral that was killed and we took her in despite the fact something was not quite right about her. She had no diaphragm and her liver was pushed into her heart. When we got her strong enough the vet made her an artificial diaphragm and relocated the liver back to the correct position. During the surgery we were impressed with her survival because her heart was misshaped from the liver pressing up against it. Still going strong after 2 years!

  2. Love the cat pose with the new book Lucy Roberta. Our Eliot, named for George Eliot, mostly because she was thought to be a boy by the original owners, is polydactyl. She has six toes on each foot, the ones on the front looking like mittens and opposable thumbs.

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