Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am delighted to welcome Leslie Budewitz back to Escape with Dollycas with a new Spice Shop Mystery that will be released next Tuesday!
by Leslie Budewitz
It’s fiction, readers say. What is there to research?
Plenty. Okay, so writing a novel is like spending all day, every day, with my imaginary friends. I’ve often said I’m a happier, healthier person because I spend much of my time with people who only exist because I made them up.
But what makes these people so interesting is that they bring into my life new experiences. New perspectives. New problems and strange objects, unfamiliar takes on familiar places. Dead bodies and the search for a killer.
In my Spice Shop series, Pepper Reece runs Seattle Spice in the famed Pike Place Market. Founded in 1907, Pike Place is the oldest continuously operating public market in the country. I fell in love with the Market as a college freshman, not long after the city’s voters saved it from urban removal. Later, as a young lawyer working in downtown Seattle, I shopped in the Market regularly and made it my mission to eat my way through. Easy to do, since it’s constantly changing. Research!
When I’m working on a Spice Shop book, I keep a map of the Market and a current list of shops, restaurants, services, and other tenants close. Though I’d long heard tales of hauntings in the old buildings, Market Ghost Stories by Mercedes Yeager, who grew up in the Market where her parents ran an artists’ stall and who now runs a coffee shop and conducts tours of the Market, gave me a new view of the place. Turns out that over time, doors and windows in various buildings were closed off, creating hidden rooms and passageways, which I used in Assault and Pepper, the first in the series.
Both Mr. Right and my best friend from college, who still lives in the area and whom I’ve dubbed my unofficial research assistant, have spent countless hours poking around the Market and environs with me. A friend who works at Seattle Center, site of the 1962 World’s Fair, gave Mr. Right and me a behind-the-scenes tour, which helped enormously in writing a pair of scenes in Guilty as Cinnamon.
On another visit, Mr. Right and I prowled through the Lake Union houseboat district, where Pepper’s good friend Laurel lives. We snapped pictures, ate breakfast, and walked past a tiny antique shop that, years later, gave me the idea for Rainy Day Vintage, featured in Chai Another Day. A book on the “floating home” community, newspaper articles, and blog posts gave me an insider’s view—and even prompted me to give Laurel and her son a white cat who roams the docks. Research!
For Chai Another Day, naturally, I drank lots of tea. Read articles on chai and its fascinating history, and played in the kitchen to come up with a tea blend and a baking blend that Pepper sells; both recipes are included in the book.
Of course, a mystery needs a crime, usually a murder, and a murder needs a weapon. I won’t say much about that—no spoilers—but I will say that for Chai, I got to learn some fun facts about an antique my husband inherited from his mother. And as is often the case in cozies, Pepper fends off the killer with an innovative use of a familiar item, prompting more research.
Mysteries have a serious side, too. I’ve plowed through photos of Seattle crime scene investigations and stared a little too closely at street cops to make sure I know what they wear and drive. The Seattle Police Department’s public information officers have helped me pin down a few details. For Chai, I dug into immigration statistics from the 1950s, pored over blogs written by young women of South Asian (Indian) ancestry, and read about treatment for opioid addiction.
And of course, I cooked and ate. When you read a recipe in one of my books, I want you to know you can make it without much trouble and it will turn out well. Research!
Fiction works when it feels real. That means melding imagination with investigation, putting the facts to work in service of the tale. And it’s so much fun.
Thank you, Leslie, for visiting today!
Keep reading to for my review of Chai Another Day.
Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece probes murder while juggling a troubled employee, her mother’s house hunt, and a fisherman who’s set his hook for her.
As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee’s vintage home decor shop that ends in murder.
Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend – and Pepper herself.
Again, Pepper has a lot on her plate and the last thing she needs is another murder, but that is exactly what she finds when she tries to take a little time for herself. She heard an argument erupting from the vintage shop as she climbed the steps for a relaxing massage. Before she gets any of the benefits the massage ends when her massage therapist, Seetha is summoned downstairs for a medical emergency. The emergency was murder! Aimee McGillvray, the owner of Rainy Day Vintage, found her employee Joelle bleeding on the floor of the store but she died before help could arrive.
Pepper is distraught, if only she had ventured into the store before going upstairs she may have saved Joelle’s life. Warned by Detective Tracy to stay out of the investigation, she feels responsible and can’t help but to do her own inquiries.
I am so happy this series has new life with a new publisher. If you missed the prior books, no fear, the author provides a cast list at the front of the book and provides plenty of background within these pages.
The author has created a strong protagonist in Pepper Reece. She is smart and caring with a background in human relations. Pepper has learned a lot about spices since this series began. She is a wonderful cook and has developed a great palate which helps her create some fantastic blends with the help of her staff. She has also developed a palate for sleuthing and that could be her downfall as sometimes she leaps into the fray without regard for her own safety.
Thankfully there is a great supporting cast who has saved her bacon time and time again. The supporting cast is her mother, friends, employees, a certain fisherman, and Detectives Tracy, Spencer, and new in this book Armstrong. Also, usually by her side is her lovable dog, Arf, who has great instincts. All are genuine and relatable. They each have a purpose and add to the story as a whole.
I do enjoy that Ms. Budewitz doesn’t back away from social issues. Pepper’s family has always been involved in helping people and doing the right thing and she lives her life the same way.
The story does blend the happenings of real life with the mystery of murder seamlessly. Readers will find a well-written and very well-plotted mystery. There are plenty of suspects and plenty of twists. Surprisingly I honed in on the right guilty party this time but didn’t understand the full motivation until it was spelled out for me. The author did her best to give up on my suspect in favor of another but I held tight to my choice.
The setting of this series, Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, is such a unique place and a treasure trove for this series. With each visit, we find new shops, nooks, and places I would love to visit. The author’s descriptive style really brings the place alive. Someday, I hope to see it in person.
This is an excellent addition to this series. The characters are like old friends and they are wrapped up in a fine mystery. There are also mouth-watering recipes and spice notes at the back of the book I can’t wait to try. I will be anxiously awaiting book #5 and another trip to the Seattle Market. I hope we don’t have to wait too long.
Your Escape Into A Good Book Travel Agent
You can read my review of Assault and Pepper here, Guilty as Cinnamon here,
and Killing Thyme here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series. CHAI ANOTHER DAY, her fourth Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, will be published on June 11. DEATH AL DENTE, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She also won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. “All God’s Sparrows,” her first historical fiction, won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.
Find her online at www.LeslieBudewitz.com and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LeslieBudewitzAuthor More about CHAI ANOTHER DAY, including an excerpt here: http://www.lesliebudewitz.com/spice-shop-mystery-series/
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