Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill by N. M. Kelby, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill

Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill

4.4 5
by N. M. Kelby

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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


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

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)

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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
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

Product Details

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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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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

From the Hardcover edition.

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