Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill

( 5 )


Take a slasher-movie actress, a Scottish circus clown, an FBI school dropout, a blind heiress, a junk-food-loving millionaire developer, and a Buddha-quoting bluesman, add a couple of murders in a normally sedate retirement community in south Florida, and you get an irresistible tale that’s part Carl Hiaasen and part Gabriel García Márquez. It all goes down as easy as a Key lime pie martini, the signature drink of the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill.

N. M. Kelby’s last three novels ...

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Take a slasher-movie actress, a Scottish circus clown, an FBI school dropout, a blind heiress, a junk-food-loving millionaire developer, and a Buddha-quoting bluesman, add a couple of murders in a normally sedate retirement community in south Florida, and you get an irresistible tale that’s part Carl Hiaasen and part Gabriel García Márquez. It all goes down as easy as a Key lime pie martini, the signature drink of the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill.

N. M. Kelby’s last three novels have received glowing reviews in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, People, and the Atlantic Monthly. Carl Hiaasen has called her “a natural-born writer,” and Kirkus praised her “black humor that sizzles.” Sit back, put up your feet, and get ready to lose yourself in a rollicking good story.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A Hiaassen-esque mystery in Florida, where a couple of deaths at a retirement community are anything but natural. Mix in a campy slasher film actress, Barry Manilow impersonator and his pet pooch Mandy and a Baptist-turned-Buddhist blues singer and you get a perfect beach read.”
New York Post

“With Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar & Grill, N. M. Kelby joins that elite group of crime fiction writers such as Carl Hiaasen who toil in absurdist humor and outlandish situations …. Kelby skillfully mixes magic realism into a sharply honed story that also includes a bit of philosophy about greed and Florida.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“N.M. Kelby's Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar & Grill is a worthy addition to the pantheon of over-the-top Florida crime novels …. N.M. Kelby writes beautifully. Her characters are unforgettable, and her use of oddball details adds to the particular flavor of the story, which has moments of melancholy and tenderness among the fireworks.”
The Capital Times

“Wit, charm, a murder or two -- everything you need is here. Dig your toes in the sand and have a good time. It’s the Bad Girl way.”

“Laguna Key, the fictional setting of N.M. Kelby's new novel, lies somewhere between Carl Hiaasen's Miami, Jimmy Buffett's Key West and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Aracataca. Kelby's brand of Sunshine State satire has a gentle, even enchanted touch …. It's the Florida we wish we lived in.”
St. Petersburg Times

“Witty, evocative, and literate . . . Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar & Grill manages to be all three and a mystery to boot. I was hooked from the first paragraph. N. M. Kelby must be a fascinating woman, ’cause she sure is a fascinating writer.”
—Adrienne Barbeau, actress (The Fog, Swamp Thing, and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death) and author of There Are Worse Things I Could Do

“Just as she did in the magical Whale Season, Kelby has created a Florida that is dreamy and endearing, a place filled with wondrous characters–women who might be mermaids and men who might be angels. I want to go live there. And I want to be a Bad Girl.”
—Bob Morris, author of Bahamarama

Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill is a smart, funny page-turner with a compelling mystery at its core. Once again, N. M. Kelby has cooked up a delightful stew of human desire, Floridian strangeness, and outrageous and fully realized characters. This is a great read.”
—David Liss, author of The Ethical Assassin and The Coffee Trader

“Good grief! N. M. Kelby is another hilarious Florida writer. Vultures, matching wines with frying candy bars, a Barry Manilow impersonator, and lots of bodies in a gated community. You can’t make this stuff up. Oh, wait, Ms. Kelby did. Funny is good, and there is enough poignancy to prevent it from being a comic strip. Get the book and have a swell time.”     
—Otto Penzler, editor (with Carl Hiaasen) of The Best American Mystery Stories 2007 and owner of New York City’s Mysterious Bookshop

Publishers Weekly

Lyrical prose and Technicolor characters lift Kelby's amusing, unconventional mystery set at a gated Florida beach community plagued by murder and mayhem. The main responsibility of Brian Wilson, a security guard at Laguna Key who was kicked out of FBI training, is to protect the ethereal Sophie, blind daughter of his boss, Mr. Whit. Mr. Whit, who's buying up property to expand his small empire, is frustrated by the last holdout, ex-horror-film actress Danni Keene, owner of the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill, which has been repeatedly vandalized. Brian finds the first body, that of a homeless activist whose estranged brother, Sòlas Mackay, arrives with his traveling puppet circus and sets up camp in the Bad Girl's parking lot. Danni discovers the next, a Barry Manilow "tribute artist" and hit man she had hired to entertain customers. Sòlas, Danni, Brian and Sophie must battle marauding vultures, fierce weather, a devious ex-husband and the stun-gun-happy Mr. Whit. Along the way, Kelby (Whale Season) offers some unexpected wisdom. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A South Florida retirement community turns into a wild and happening place, full of murder, mayhem and larger-than-life characters. Residents of the (usually) sleepy community of Laguna Key are battling the owner of the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill. The owner, a former horror-movie scream queen named Danni Keene, wants live music at the bar, which has resulted in the arrival of Buddy, a suspicious Barry Manilow impersonator, and his dog Mandy. The constant back-and-forth between Dannie and members of the community, which is primarily centered on noise restrictions during the nightly broadcast of Wheel of Fortune, is the biggest issue that security guard Brian Wilson has to deal with-that is until the body of an apparent drifter is discovered in a dumpster. When it turns out that the deceased had a brother, and that brother comes to town with his puppet circus in tow, things get weird fast. Taking her cue from fellow Floridian Carl Hiaasen, Kelby (Whale Season, 2006, etc.) plays her quirks for all they are worth. Buddhism, European circus traditions and the vagaries of aging all meld together in this oddball hodgepodge. Kelby adds madcap romance to the mix: Wilson, who can't help singing Beach Boys tunes, is hot for the blind Sophie, his "landlocked mermaid," and Danni, who at her peak was known as "the workingman's Sharon Stone," falls hard for circus leader Solas MacKay, who sports tiny vestigial wings. But the human element is skimmed over lightly in pursuit of wacky humor, and without Hiaasen's spot-on timing the jokes begin to wear thin. Fans of the bizarre may be intrigued; others will find it annoying. Agent: Lisa Bankoff/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307382078
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/3/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

N. M. KELBY spent twenty years as a television and print journalist before she began writing novels. She is the author of Whale Season and lives in Sarasota, Florida, near the beach, with her husband, dogs, cats, and a kettle of vultures circling overhead. Visit her at
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Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

I t was the hissing that caught his attention. Like a tire going flat, like a snake giving warning—but loud. Almost deafening. The security guard was making one last pass before dawn when he heard it. Then saw it.

At first, Wilson thought it was just bats. Laguna Key is home to hundreds of them, maybe even thousands. It’s not one of the features mentioned in any of the retirement community’s brochures, but every night clouds of bats come screaming out of the mangrove forest, fly low along the beach, bank over the tennis courts, cast shadows on the moon, and slip into dreams.

But this was different. Louder. Angry. It made him uneasy. He followed the noise, the hum of it, back behind the bar, back to the Dumpster—then stopped. The air reeked of salt and death.

And there were wings.

Wildly flapping wings. They covered the Dumpster. Made it seem alive, as if it were some sort of a new creature. Iridescent in the blue-white glow of vapor lights. Menacing.


Their hissing seemed to vibrate through his body.

At this point, Wilson thought he screamed. He wanted to. He might have. He believed he did, but the vultures did not move. Hungry, they were trying to push their way inside the Dumpster, hissing at each other, unaware that Wilson was standing there. Or uncaring.

Wilson had a horrible urge to laugh. Sweat slipped along his spine.

A single bald red head turned toward him. The wrinkled neck, the sharp curve of its beak, the cool eye. The frenzy stopped.

Not good, Wilson thought.

The vultures all turned, their crinkled bloodstained heads bobbing in unison.

Wilson’s heart beat hard. A single bird broke away, flew slowly around him. Sniffed. The bird was so close Wilson could smell blood on its breath.

It swooped in even closer. Hissed. When the tips of its wings lightly brushed his forehead, Wilson flinched and the other birds began, again, their hissing. Spat at him. Bits of undigested flesh covered his shirt, turned the cool morning air acid.

Really not good.

And so Wilson did the only thing that a man in his position could do. He sang “Surfer Girl.”

“Do you love me . . .”

Apparently, the vultures did not. They fled.

Wilson took a deep breath. He was unsure. Uneasy. A little cold. The smell of blood, the rot, was overwhelming.

Carrion, he thought. The polite, less graphic name for roadkill. Then he leaned into the Dumpster.

He was, unfortunately, very wrong.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2008

    Carl Hiaasen and Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    I read that in a review. There are tons of great ones for this title. This book is just that. Set in FL, it's as funny as Hiaasen but sometimes it's so beautiful like Marquez. And wise. Hiaasen said on the cover that this book is wise, and it is. This book's a knockout. I don't understand why it's not a bestseller. You just don't see a book like this everyday.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2008

    I hope there is a sequel

    I have not read any of her other books so I cannot compare this to any of N.M. Kelby's other 3 books. This is one of the most refreshing mysteries that I have read in awhile. This is not one of the niche-cozies that seem to be everywhere (not that I don't enjoy those as well). Not that it doesn't have a food connection. Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar & Grill has it's own BBQ sauce. The characters are well written, the mystery is just that (she lets out just enough to keep you interested keep you guessing). Danni Keene slasher queen is an interesting protagonist. I mean that in a good way. I want to be her friend, I want to hang-out in her Tiki bar - drinking Key lime pie martinis (ingredients are listed in the book, but no recipe), even if I do have to wait until 'Wheel of Fortune' is over to have someone to sit next to. The Buddha-quoting bluesman, Jimmy Ray, is someone else I really enjoyed getting to know. Laguna Key itself is a character in this book. Not only is the story inside terrific, but look at that cover! You can't tell me that those colors don't scream the Florida Keys. I will definitely look for Mrs. Kelby's other books and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel to Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar & Grill.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is an interesting slice of life drama

    Brian Wilson (not that BW) works as a security guard at gated Laguna Key, a Florida beach community. His prime task is to keep safe the daughter of his employer blind Sophie Whit. -------------------- Her dad is planning to expand his minor fiefdom by buying land. He has been successful with everyone he offers money to except for the owner of Bad Girl's Bar and Grill. Former horror B-film actress Danni Keene refuses to sell in spite of constant harassment and vandalism that she assumes is directed by Whit. Meanwhile things turn uglier when Brian finds the corpse of a homeless activist while the victim¿s brother Solas Mackay has set up his traveling puppet troupe in the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill parking lot. With a Barry Manilow imitator, everyone seems to be having a good time except a stunned half-Whit who plots over fast food to do whatever is necessary to possess Danni¿s property.-------------------------- This is an interesting slice of life drama with the murder mystery enhancing the tale. The key cast members seem genuine as each struggle with what they are doing with their lives. Retirement in Southern Florida is showcased at its best and worst by the crew of MURDER AT THE BAD GIRL'S BAR AND GRILL as these zanies make for an amusing yet poignant look at those still working in these communities.---------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2008

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