Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am delighted to welcome Leslie back to Escape With Dollycas today!
A Spicy Christmas in Seattle’s Pike Place Market
by Leslie Budewitz
Delighted to beat the heat with you by pretending it’s Christmas and celebrating the launch of Peppermint Barked! This is my sixth Spice Shop mystery featuring Pepper Reece, owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market. I love writing and reading cozies, in part because of “the cozy covenant.” My interpretation: each book is a promise to introduce our readers to people they want to know in a place they’d like to visit, tempt them with delicious food, and show them something new about the world we live in, all wrapped in a solid mystery. (Thanks to my friend Barbara Ross, author of the Maine Clambake and Jane Darrowfield mysteries for the original concept of the “cozy covenant.”)
In each book, I aim to fulfill that covenant, along with a pair of challenges I set myself. The first: How can I make this book better than the last? What skill do I want to focus on? What plot twist have I not used that I’d like to try?
For Assault and Pepper, the series opener, I wanted to “explore how a ‘life begins at 40′ gal rebuilds after her life falls apart, in the heart of a city I still love. Explore caring vs. over-protection.” Others: “Investigate a cold case.” “Kill twice and get away with it.” “Deepen the relationships.” “Family on her own terms.” “No murder.”
And this time? My books always touch on a woman’s search for identity. Not that men don’t sometimes struggle with a sense of themselves and their purpose, but it has always seemed like the true heroine’s journey. In Peppermint Barked, I flipped that script to focus on the male search for identity. That led directly to decisions and actions by three men close to Pepper, as well as a few new characters. The combination, I think, is a fun story with a serious edge, and good food!
What’s that second challenge? When I started writing the series, I picked up a book of Market ghost stories. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the stories are a fascinating part of Market history. One reason, I came to understand, is the physical layout. There’s a main, L-shaped cobbled street, Pike Place. An alley runs through it, ending abruptly and picking up again thirty feet lower, connected by a cobbled passage and a hidden staircase carved into a retaining wall. More than a dozen buildings cropped up over fifty-some years, distinct but connected, some with several levels. Walls were moved, passages closed off, and windows boarded up, creating opportunities for people to seemingly appear and disappear.
In Assault and Pepper, a very real character uses those hidden passages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading him to be wrongly accused of a crime, and later, to be at the right place just in time to help Pepper. How else, I wondered, could I use the idea of ghosts to add a layer of fun to the story, without actually adding ghosts themselves? Ghost peppers. Ghosting in relationships. Ghost nets. Ghost signs, those faded advertisements painted on old buildings that sometimes reappear when an adjacent building comes down. There may, or may not, be a ghost in one book—no spoilers! And often, the ghosts of our own pasts, our choices, our regrets.
I hope you’ll make the trip with me to Pike Place Market, a place where the past, present, and future are all very real.
Thank you Leslie so much for visiting today!
Now keep reading for my thoughts about Peppermint Barked.
Peppermint Barked: A Spice Shop Mystery
6th in Series
Setting – Washington
Seventh Street Books (July 19, 2022)
Paperback : 236 pages
ISBN-10 : 1645060543
ISBN-13 : 978-1645060543
Kindle ASIN : B09JPHR9CH
A Dickens of a Christmas turns deadly…
As the holiday season lights up Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece’s beloved Spice Shop is brimming with cinnamon, nutmeg, and shoppers eager to stuff their stockings. Add to the mix a tasty staff competition—a peppermint bark-off—along with Victorian costumes for this year’s Dickensian Christmas theme, and Pepper almost forgets to be nervous about meeting her fisherman boyfriend’s brother for the first time.
But when a young woman working in her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally assaulted, costumed revelers and holiday cheer are the last things on Pepper’s mind. Who would want to hurt Beth? Or were they looking for Vinny instead?
The vicious attack upsets everyone at Pike Place, but none more than Pepper’s own employee, Matt Kemp. At first, Pepper is baffled by his reaction, but his clandestine connection to Beth could hold the key to the assailant’s motive. Or perhaps it’s Vinny’s ex-wife who knows more than she’s letting on . . . and what about the mysterious top-hatted man with whom Pepper saw Beth arguing that morning?
As the secrets of the market come to light, long-held grudges, family ties, and hidden plans only further obscure the truth. Is it a ghost of the past rattling its chains or a contemporary Scrooge with more earthly motives? As Pepper chases down a killer, someone is chasing her, and in the end, the storied market itself may hold the final, deadly clue.
Pike Place Market in Seattle including Pepper Reece’s Spice Shop is all geared up for the holiday season. The theme this year is a Dickensian Christmas and many are donning Victorian costumes to give some authenticity to the season.
It should have been a fabulous time at the market but then a woman working for Pepper’s friend Vinny is attacked and assaulted. Beth is taken to the hospital and Matt Kemp who works at The Spice Shop with Pepper is taking the attack seriously hard. Not sure about any relationship the two may have Pepper thinks Matt may know why the young woman was attacked. Pepper is also interested in finding a man she witnesses arguing with Beth.
Pepper is uncovering things that don’t seem to meld together but she must be on to something because someone has started tailing her wherever she goes. Can she catch the killer before they catch her? It could be a real Bah! Humbug! Holiday if she doesn’t.
The cover of this book is gorgeous and will put everyone in the holiday mood and adding peppermint bark to their holiday treats.
Pepper Reece is a real Spice Queen, move over Maneet Chauhan. She is a great amateur sleuth as well. Her client list is growing and the holidays are sure to keep her and her employees very busy. I love that Ms. Budewitz has surrounded her protagonist with a fantastic group of employees and friends who care about each other like a great big family. Even the local law enforcement, including Pepper’s ex and detectives Spencer and Tracy, often make themselves right at home unless they are chasing down clues, and leads and trying to get Pepper to leave the investigation to them. Yeah, that is not happening. All the recurring characters are cleverly crafted and continue to grow over the course of the book/series.
This book is really a hands-on book for cozy mystery lovers. There are a lot of suspects and theories as to why Beth was attacked. Subsequent events will have you wondering if she was the real target. I worked hard to put the clues together in the right way only to have to back up and try again. I really enjoy a book that allows the reader to unwind a very complicated mystery. This story is so well plotted. I found myself highlighting what I thought were important passages. All my efforts were for naught though, There were some nice twists that tangled up my guesses and I was not even close when all was revealed, but I blame it on the pace which really sped up the closer we got to the end. Pages were really flying on my Kindle.
I really appreciate the way the author sets a scene and describes everything whether it be the food, the Spice Shop, the Market, and everything in between. I felt like I could see everything so clearly.
One little thing that pulled me up short while reading was that a group of characters had my last name. That was totally cool!
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About Leslie Budewitz
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series, the Spice Shop mysteries set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in NW Montana, where she lives. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense, beginning with Bitterroot Lake in April 2021 and continuing with Blind Faith in October 2022. A three-time Agatha-Award winner, she is a board member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”