Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am so happy to welcome Leslie Budewitz
back to Escape With Dollycas today!
Judging a book by its cover
by Leslie Budewitz
Nothing says cozy quite like the cover of a cozy mystery, does it? The dog, the cat, the food—it all sets a mood that invites us in and gives us a glimpse of what’s central to the story. Though the title tells us there’s a crime, using words like Assault, Guilty, Killing, or Dead—to take a few from titles in my Spice Shop series—there’s no body, and rarely an obvious weapon.
What’s the story behind the cover of Between a Wok and a Dead Place? Seventh in the series, Wok takes readers to one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods, the Chinatown-International District, during the Lunar New Year festivities. A few years ago, my husband and I visited the Wing Luke Museum, dedicated to the history of the Asian community in the Pacific Northwest, and toured a residential hotel dating back to the 1880s. What if, I wondered, a body was found in the basement of an old hotel? What other secrets might linger in a building with such a rich history? So I created the Gold Rush Hotel, and dug into the history of Seattle’s Chinese community and its residential hotels, which were vital to the region’s economic and cultural development. And secrets? Oh, my!
Early in the series, the publishers decided to keep the focus on Pepper’s shop, the venerable Spice Shop in Pike Place Market. Pepper remembers visiting when she was little and came to the Market with her mother on their weekly shopping trips. As much as she loved both the Spice Shop and Market, she never expected to work there—or as she often says, to find solace in bay leaves. (That line became the title of the 5th book, The Solace of Bay Leaves.)
As I write, I make a list of images that might fit the book, envisioning them in the shop. The story starts at a food walk celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. So of course we have a plate of fortune cookies beside a teapot and cups. And a rabbit, a symbol of strength and persistence despite its soft, vulnerable appearance.
The Market’s flower sellers are an institution and Pepper visits them regularly, buying fresh seasonal bouquets. Winterberry, I thought—and I love the tiny red lanterns the designer hung on the branches. They echo the lanterns hanging from the rafters and the fans that brighten the brick walls. I’d asked for a bright cover, and the red and gold that feature in much Chinese art and decor are perfect.
And the dog. Readers will recall how Arf came to live with Pepper in Assault and Pepper, the series opener. He’s an Airedale, the King of Terriers, who knows the Market well and makes friends so easily that Pepper calls him Mr. Ambassador. He’s got a nose for sniffing out trouble, and instinctively knows who he and Pepper can trust. And though she hasn’t got a clue where he got his impeccable manners, she’s grateful that he can put them aside and dive into danger when he’s needed. And I’m grateful that the designer keeps finding new images of Airedales and infusing them with just the right combination of intelligence and playfulness that makes this dog truly Pepper’s best friend.
Don’t judge a book by its cover? Good advice sometimes, but when it’s this cute, go right ahead!
Thank you, Leslie, for visiting today!
Now, please keep reading for my thoughts about Between and Wok and a Dead Place.
Between a Wok and a Dead Place: A Spice Shop Mystery
7th in Series
Setting – Washington State
Seventh Street Books (July 18, 2023)
Paperback : 236 pages
ISBN-10 : 1645060616
ISBN-13 : 978-1645060611
Kindle ASIN : B0BX7BF35L
It’s the Lunar New Year, and fortunes are about to change.
Pepper Reece, owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, loves a good festival, especially one serving up tasty treats. So what could be more fun than a food walk in the city’s Chinatown–International District, celebrating the Year of the Rabbit?
But when her friend Roxanne stumbles across a man’s body in the Gold Rush, a long-closed residential hotel, questions leap out. Who was he? What was he doing in the dust-encrusted herbal pharmacy in the hotel’s basement? Why was the pharmacy closed up—and why are the owners so reluctant to talk?
With each new discovery, Pepper finds herself asking new questions and facing more brick walls.
Then questions arise about Roxanne and her relationship to Pepper’s boyfriend Nate, away fishing in Alaska. Between her worries and her struggle to hire staff at the Spice Shop, Pepper has her hands and her heart full. Still, she can’t resist the lure of the Gold Rush and its tangled history of secrets and lies stretching back nearly a century.
But the killer is on her tail, driven by hidden demons and desires. As Pepper begins to expose the long-concealed truth, a bigger question emerges: Can she uncover the secrets of the Gold Rush Hotel without being pushed from the wok into the fire?
There is a big celebration for the Lunar New Year in one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods, the Chinatown-International District. Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece is excited to attend the food walk and other booths. Her friend, Roxanne is working in an old closed residential hotel, the Gold Rush, in the district. She was hoping to find items of historical importance but she also found a dead man in the basement. No one is able to identify the man or why he would have been in the building and the building owners are staying pretty tight-lipped about it all. Instead of answers Pepper only has many more questions. Is Roxanne involved in the man’s death? Are the building owners? Can Pepper get to the truth before the killer stops her? She is definitely Between a Wok and a Dead Place.
Pepper Reece is diving into another mystery but after all the cases she has been involved in she has become very good at it. All the characters we have grown to love are back but some of them are in new places or headed to new careers. So Pepper is hunting for the perfect people to join her fabulous team and she finds it isn’t that easy. We do get to meet some new hires though. Pepper’s boyfriend is away working in Alaska so there are some issues there and I enjoy the way they finally communicate about their relationship. All of Ms. Budewitz’s characters are dynamic and diverse. Whether old friends or new they feel true to life and continue to grow in realistic ways. The friendships the characters build between themselves are heartwarming.
The mystery was steeped in history and I loved that. I haven’t ever delved into Chinese history and the herbal pharmacy that was boarded up in the basement of the hotel and the history of the hotel itself and the entire block really, was so interesting. The author’s research into the Asian communities in Pacific Northwest is clearly evident throughout the story. I always appreciate the way Ms. Budewitz sets a scene but in this story, she went above and beyond to take her readers inside the hotel Gold Rush and around the Chinatown-International District including the food. She painted such clear pictures with her words.
The mystery was complex. Secrets that were buried so deeply come out as the search continues for the killer. The suspects were limited but motives really ran the gambit. Pepper, a lot of time with her airedale Arf by her side, keeps going over different theories and digging into anything she can to find the truth. There were some intriguing pieces of evidence that take things in a different direction which sets up a surprising discovery while sealing someone’s fate but not before Pepper finds herself in dire straights.
Between A Wok and a Dead Place was a captivating tale that kept me entertained from beginning to end. On the last page Pepper knows there are some changes ahead but states she knows the importance of following your passion no matter how old you are. Her passion led her to the Market and the Spice Shop. She is in a good place but it gave this reader some food for thought. Like Pepper, my life is filled with great people but am I following my passion?
Your Escape Into A Good Book Travel Agent
About the Author
Leslie Budewitz is the three-time Agatha Award winner and bestselling author of the Food Lovers’ Village and Spice Shop mysteries, continuing with the 7th installment, Between a Wok and a Dead Place (July 18, 2023). She also writes standalone moody suspense as Alicia Beckman. Find out more about Leslie and read excerpts of her books at her website, www.LeslieBudewitz.com. Newsletter subscribers receive a free short story, “The End of the Line” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine), featuring an elderly Greek man who seriously hates change. Join her on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/LeslieBudewitzAuthor, or on Instagram, www.Instagram.com/LeslieBudewitz. She blogs at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, www.MysteryLoversKitchen.com, on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays, cooking up crime—and recipes.
Leslie is giving away 1 Print Copy!
The contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US address.
Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.
You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.
Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Following My Facebook Fan Page.
Leave a comment for the author for 5 Bonus Entries.
Pin this giveaway to Pinterest for 3 Bonus Entries.
If you share the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive 5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.
Contest Will End on August 2, 2023, at 11:59 PM CST
The winner Will Be Chosen By Random.org
The Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.