Monday, January 2, 2012

In the Cards

By Guest Blogger Lucy Burdette

I’m not a big believer in fortune-telling, palm-reading, tarot cards or any other methods of calling the future. Still every once in a while I can’t resist a peek. Because who really knows. Right?

A couple of years ago, a tarot card reader set up in a local coffee shop in our town. So I went down to meet her. I can’t say I learned anything earthshaking, but the experience got me thinking about why a character might rely on reading tarot cards. (Mostly in the case of Hayley Snow, her mother relies on tarot cards. And she’d much rather get her cards read than go to psychotherapy!) And those ideas led to a wonderful, recurring character in my Key West food critic mystery series.

Every night in Key West, to celebrate the sunset, street performers and tourists gather in Mallory Square. One of the regulars is Ron, a tarot card reader. As you can see, he dresses the part—of course I couldn’t resist a reading. And I couldn’t resist developing a character who looks and acts like him in AN APPETITE FOR MURDER (which is out tomorrow by the way from NAL/Obsidian—yippee!)

Here’s my main character, Hayley Snow, making a visit to Lorenzo. She’s just heard about the murder of an ex-boyfriend’s new flame:

“Lorenzo was there without any customers, shuffling his cards and looking pensive. Probably wondering what kind of dinner was in his future.
I slid into the chair across from him and handed over a crumpled twenty-dollar bill. Some people go to therapy every week, I get my cards read. A tarot reader saved my mother’s sanity when I was a kid—not psychiatry. So consulting the cards felt natural. Mom has long since moved on to doing her own readings, but for me, Lorenzo’s insights are like training wheels still welded to my psyche.
          “Back again,” Lorenzo said, smiling under that goofy mustache. “Another crisis?”
          He has proven to be very big on that old saw “crisis equals opportunity,” even in the short time I’d known him. He had to be an optimist, taking money from all those tourists and then giving life direction, night after balmy night.
          “The universe seems a little crazy right now,” I said. “I’d like to get your opinion.”
          He had me sterilize my hands with a witch hazel spritzer and cut his deck of oversized, colorful cards, sticky with age and use. Then he laid out the first row, placing a metal lizard on top so they wouldn’t blow away: the Chariot, reversed, the Five of Pentacles, and the Eight of Swords.
“Hmmm,” he said, his brow creasing into the biggest worry lines I’d ever seen him wear. “You may be pulled in many directions…self-sabotage…a feeling of neediness? Seems like you’re feeling a little out of control?”
          “Tell me something I don’t know,” I said, leaning in closer to the cards.

          Now I’m looking forward to weaving Lorenzo into all the books. And my sister gave me my own pack of tarot cards to study as I write. And, should I need one more way to procrastinate, I can get a free three-card reading every day for me, or for Hayley. And here’s the link for you:

How about you all? Any tarot card believers out there? And even if not, do you mind a touch of supernatural in the books you read?
Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries, debuting January 3 with AN APPETITE FOR MURDER. Read more at her website,, or visit her on  or on or on her group blog,