Posted on February 7, 2013 - by

Book Discussion Questions for TOPPED CHEF

Hayley Snow and I love it when book groups read our Key West mysteries. So we’ve provided some questions to help get the discussion going. And if you want to serve snacks that fit the theme, you’ll find recipes in the back of the book!

I wish I could travel the country meeting with book clubs–nothing is more fun than talking with readers! I would love to consider attending your group–either in person or by Skype. Shoot me an email and we’ll discuss! Lucyburdette at gmail dot com

1.  TOPPED CHEF opens with Hayley worrying about her first negative review. How do you feel about restaurant reviews, either online or in newspapers? Do you trust them? Do you write them? Do you feel critics should write about their negative experiences as well as their positive?

2.  Do you watch celebrity chef or cooking TV shows? Which chefs do you like and why?

3.  Peter Shapiro mentions several times that reality TV is entertainment. And entertainment means conflict. So all’s fair in what they film and how they attempt to goad the participants into reacting on camera. How do you feel about TV shows exploiting the conflict in real people’s lives? Which reality TV shows do you watch and why are they appealing? Would you consider being a participant in such a show?

4.  One of the most challenging parts of writing a mystery with an amateur sleuth has to do with her stake in solving the mystery. Were you convinced by Hayley’s insistence on getting involved in this story? How does this fit with her character?

5.  Hayley struggles with her feelings about the homeless people who inhabit Key West. What conclusions do you see her drawing by the end of the book?

6.  Hayley puts her own safety at risk to rescue someone else. Do you see this as consistent with what you know about her? How do you think you would react in a similar situation?

7.  In TOPPED CHEF, one of the contestants makes recipes from the tradition of molecular gastronomy. Does this kind of cooking appeal to you? Why or why not?

8.  How do you feel about the quote from chapter nineteen, from Mona Talbott, that the grandmother is the ultimate cooking teacher in the world? What is your family’s cooking like? Do you have treasured recipes passed down from a grandmother or another relative?

Thank you for reading and discussing TOPPED CHEF! Look out for the fourth Key West food critic mystery, coming in February, 2014. And don’t forget to spread the word–leave your reviews on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Goodreads–anywhere books are sold!


We'd love to hear yours!

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    August 9, 2013


    Sue Ellen said:

    1. I loved the opener with Hayley’s misgivings over a negative review which happens to be true, and then having it backfire on her. Trying to stay to above it while wanting to throttle the guy, then having him turn up dead, sets her up for having a stake in solving the crime.

    2. Don’t watch celebrity chef shows. Truthfully, I’m not much into gourmet cooking, but I am intrigued at some of the wild stuff that’s out there, and I do love a quick & easy casserole. Love desserts, but can’t handle the calories.

    3. I occasionally catch a few minutes of reality TV – like COPs, where you have real people – but am not a regular, and wouldn’t be a willing participant!

    4. (covered in 1) – I didn’t question her motive for getting involved – not at her age, and unattached.

    5. She related to homeless as individuals.

    6. Hayley could swim, so sure, she’d jump to the rescue of a drowning woman (underestimated the cold, and the current!) – a lot of us would do the same, but you don’t know until it happens.

    7. Molecular gastronomy – interesting point, not what I would consider food.

    8. I treasure my mom’s old recipe files, many passed down from my grandma, but most of them I’ve updated. As a grandma myself, I do pass on recipes with my own notations – it keeps evolving, not any fixed notion of “how to cook.”

    Enjoyed the book!


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      August 9, 2013


      Lucy said:

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers Sue Ellen! What a treasure your mom’s recipe files will be to the next generations:). And thanks so much for reading. xo


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