Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am thrilled to welcome Leslie Budewitz back to Escape With Dollycas!
by Leslie Budewitz
Whoever first called reading “armchair travel” was brilliant.
Or, to quote another brilliant mind, though Dr. Seuss wasn’t talking about books, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”
I’ve always loved exploring new places by reading, and when I first started writing fiction, I knew one of my goals was to take people to times and places they might not visit themselves. page. My Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries are set in a lakeside town Montana on the road to Glacier National Park, inspired by the village where I live. It’s truly a cozy community, though a Montana mountain valley is not a typical location for a cozy mystery. My Spice Shop series is an urban cozy, set in a community within a community, Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market.
Why the Market? I fell in love with it as a college freshman and made it my life’s mission to eat my way through it. Since it’s constantly changing, and I only get to visit once a year or so, it’s an on-going challenge. But I’m up for it!
It’s a vibrant place, full of sounds, sights, and smells. And the food! The Market is the heart and soul—and stomach—of the city. You can eat just about anything there. Start with a slice of pizza at DeLaurenti’s Italian grocery. Sample spice tea at Market Spice. The Persian food at Farvahar. Dolmatas and falafel from The Falafel King. Dim sum, Vietnamese coffee, baklava, piroshky. Clam chowder, oysters, barbecue. Bagels, crumpets, crepes and cheesecake. Grab coffee at the original Starbucks. Sip wine, beer, ginger beer.
Have I made you hungry? Good! (Me, too.)
The Market transports you to a time gone by, with its cobblestone streets and the jumble of early 20th century buildings jammed against each other. Pillars topped with Victorian capitals. Buckets of fresh flowers. Street-corner musicians. Ghosts who preen and pirouette in the windows of the old ballroom, and other ghosts who reorganize beads in jewelry displays and drink the good whiskey. Bridges to nowhere and windows overlooking nothing. But there are a few modern twists, uniquely Seattle: The Gum Wall outside the Market Theater, a bit of psycho-grunge regularly ranked one of the germiest places in the world. Grown men throwing fish. Visitors from all across the globe.
In The Solace of Bay Leaves, Pepper Reece is about to celebrate her second anniversary as owner of the Spice Shop. Halloween is approaching, and she and Cayenne, one of her employees, have been prowling Market stalls for warty gourds, goblins’ eggs, and other seasonal decors. Through her investigation into the shooting of an old friend and an unsolved murder takes her to the Lake Union houseboat community, some of the city’s older residential neighborhoods, and the hospital district, it’s the Market and its merchants, bakers, craftspeople, and residents who ground Pepper and our story. An observant artist, new to the Market, sees something critical, and Pepper meets a young immigrant woman and her daughter who provide additional clues.
The Market, and the Spice Shop, are Pepper’s happy place. They’re mine, too—even if the Spice Shop exists only in my imagination, and I hope, yours. Pour a cup of something you enjoy, curl up in your comfy chair, and take a trip to Seattle with me, on the page.
Thank you Leslie for dropping by today!
Keep reading for my thoughts about The Solace of Bay Leaves.
The Solace of Bay Leaves (Spice Shop Mysteries)
by Leslie Budewitz
Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves.
But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface . . .
Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.
Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.
Pepper Reece and her boyfriend Nate are out for a night on the town with her BBF Kristen Gardner and her husband Eric when she receives a text message from mutual friend Laurel Halloran . . .
Detective Tracy is in my living room . . . FBI on the way.
After a little confab, the foursome heads to Laurel’s houseboat where they learn another friend of the girls has been shot and is in the hospital. Then Detective Tracy drops the bomb, their friend Maddie was shot with the same gun as another case that had gone cold. Pat Halloran, Laurel’s husband was murdered about 3 years ago. Is this a new lead? Tracy tells Pepper to stay out of his investigation and that is echoed by the FBI agent. Pepper knows that is not going to happen. She has helped solve other cases, why not this one? or two?
Pepper Reece knows her spices and she is a grand amateur sleuth. Her life is on an upswing with a successful and growing business, a new romance with Nate, and her lovable companion Arf, who she adopted when his owner moved away. She is surrounded by a great supporting cast of friends and employees. All the characters are written very realistically. Ms. Budewitz all gives readers a nice group of suspects. Some as sketchy as can be.
The murder mystery is complex and requires a lot of digging. If the shootings are related Pepper needs to finds out how. The author has plotted many twists and turns to keep everyone guessing. There is also a subplot mystery involving the spice shop and a special blend. This mixes in with the main mystery nicely along with the daily routine of running the shop and Pepper’s personal life. The story has a nice pace and builds to an exciting conclusion.
Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market is an ideal setting for this series. Each story we learn more about the place and discover new shops and vendors. I really hope to visit there someday.
The Solace of Bay Leaves is a fine addition to this series. I am looking forward to the next installment.
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.
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