A Day in Jewel Bay With Erin Murphy by Leslie Budewitz

Death Al DenteWelcome to the Merc—Glacier Mercantile. Old-timers still call it Murphy’s Mercantile. My great-grandfather Murphy built this place, the original village grocery, in 1910. See the date carved in the cornerstone? Practically pioneer days in this part of Montana, in the northwest corner, on Eagle Lake. That was the same year Glacier National Park was established, barely thirty miles from here.

Time moved slowly then, and the village of Jewel Bay didn’t change much. In the early 1970s, about the time my parents met—in Italy, where my father was an American college student and my mother an American following her heritage—progress came to town. Shops that had thrived for decades moved out, leaving the old stone and brick buildings surrounding the bay sadly vacant. My grandmother told me there were days when it was just her, staring at the Saltines and cans of tomato soup, while folks discovered the wonders of the new supermarket out on the highway. She and my grandfather did not know what would become of them.

Gradually, though, Jewel Bay forged a new identity. Young couples moved in, including my parents. My dad taught history and coached at the high school; my mother raised the three of us and cooked up a storm. Artists took over, rechristening the original settlement “the village” and making it a haven for art, music, and theater—and food.

And somehow, Murphy’s Mercantile thrived along with it. My childhood was happy. Our home in an orchard south of town brimmed with the loves and feuds of an Irish-Italian—and All-American—family.

Then, my senior year, my father was killed in a hit-and-run. Ike Hoover, the lead sheriff’s detective, worked his backside off but never solved the case. It haunts him still.

I went off to college that fall, then left Montana for ten years. Took my business degree to Seattle. Worked my way up at SavClub, the international warehouse chain, and became an assistant grocery buyer. Apples, cheese, chicken, wine, filet mignon—you eat it, we sold it. (We also sold cat food, batteries, and snow tires, but what I know about those items wouldn’t fill one of those tiny paper sample cups.)

Meanwhile, my mother took over the Merc, doing her best to save the family legacy. She turned it into a gift shop with a few local food items. But her heart wasn’t in it. What my mother, Fresca—Francesca Conti Murphy—loves best is not selling, or even eating, but cooking. Making fresh pasta. Tomato sauces. Pestos: basil, roasted pepper, artichoke. She hired her friend Claudette to manage the place so she could cook, and things started to turn around. Everyone, whether they’re Irish, Norwegian, or good old American mutt, loves Italian food.

And Fresca’s is really, really good.

Fast forward to this spring. Fresca knew I was at a turning point. I never said, but she knew. And she was at one, too. Time to let go—or go for broke. She started hinting that it was time for me to come home. And you know what a mother’s hints are like. I wasn’t sure—I liked city life. My brother’s a wolf biologist, out howling at the moon. My sister’s an artist, with a great husband and a five-year-old—my amazing nephew, Landon. But what does an assistant grocery buyer do in a town of 2,500 year-round—even one that more than doubles in summer?

Then Claudette’s boyfriend, the chiropractor, moved to Vegas to study Elvisology. (Don’t call him an impersonator—he prefers “tribute artist.”) She left my mother a note, and followed him.

So here I am. Manager of all I survey and master of none of it. My mother still controls the building and the business, and she’s great, but I didn’t come home to be in charge of nothing.

But if there’s one thing everyone in Jewel Bay loves, it’s a festival. You name the holiday, we’ve got a festival. Jewel Bay calls itself the Food Lover’s Village, in a nod to our terrific restaurants and the shops catering to foodies. So why not, I thought, combine them in a festival to celebrate summer? After all, we’ve got about ninety days of tourist season to make most of our income, so let’s kick it off in style. A Festa di Pasta di Jewel Bay.

Friday night we’re serving dinner in the courtyard the Merc shares with Red’s Bar. All proceeds go to the Food Bank. The rest of the weekend, we’ve got Italian specials in every restaurant, music in the streets, a gala concert at the Playhouse, a carnival for the kids, and more.

It’s going to be the best party this little village has ever seen, in more than a century. Come join us for Prosecco and pinot grigio, fettucine and lasagna, gelato and biscotti.

Nothing can go wrong. I’ve got it all planned.


Thanks to Penguin, I have one (1) copy of DEATH AL DENTE to give away. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. Contest ends August 9; US entries only per publisher’s request.


Meet the author
Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, debuts from Berkley Prime Crime on August 6. The series is set in a small, lakeside resort community in Northwest Montana, on the road to Glacier Park, near where author Leslie Budewitz lives. Leslie is also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Visit her at www.LeslieBudewitz.com and on Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

41 responses to “A Day in Jewel Bay With Erin Murphy by Leslie Budewitz

  1. What a great idea for a series. Glacier National Park is gorgeous. Dee

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  2. Another author to put on my wish list. I like the back story of the father and working in a Sam’s Club clone. I think it would be interesting to see how the relationship between Erin and her mother works now that Erin has come home as an adult.

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  3. Another new series to add to my collection. Thank you for the chance to win

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  4. Sounds like a lovely place to visit and a great story to read. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

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  5. i’ve been eyeing this debut book since i heard of it…..
    thank you for the giveaway!!!

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  6. Susan Slovinsky

    Another book and author to add to my list – it’s growing faster than I can read. Thank you for the giveaway and for all you do. Am enjoying being updated on old favorites and introduced to new ones.

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  7. adding Maureen H to the contest as she’s having problems posting a comment.

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  8. Looks like the first in a fabulous new series is about to hit the shelves! I’m anxious to read this one ~

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  9. Debbie Carney

    How wonderful, a new author to add to my list of must reads. This sounds delightful, I love small town books. I’d love to win this 🙂

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  10. Leslie’s new book sounds like a great start to a new series! I like the sound of the setting in Montana and the Merc!! Thanks!

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  11. Set in Montana and food…sounds really fun!

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  12. Kathy Gonzales

    New to me author and series, sounds interesting! Thanks for the giveaway dru!

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  13. mary robinson

    Sounds like a great new series. Thanks!

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  14. There are not too many cozies that have the elements of Leslie’s book, so this series will do wonderfully well, I am sure. Leslie is a new author to me, but I am sure she will be on my list of favorites very soon. The premise sounds so inviting and so unusual and I can’t wait to get the book. I would love to be the recipient of the giveaway to introduce myself to the author but if that doesn’t happen, I have the book on my list to be ordered soon.
    Thank you for the giveaway.

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  15. Hi Dru, thanks for doing a foodie book. You know how I love to eat, so YES please add me to those who’d like to win a copy of this book.

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  16. Ronda Morhaime

    Sounds like a winner book can’t wait to get started!

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  17. Another new author—she has picked a great setting and I love food so it’ on my TBR list.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  18. So I’m a few hours behind you, out here in NW Montana — what a delight to turn on my computer and read your comments! Thanks, Dru Ann, for giving me the opportunity to introduce Erin to your readers, and thanks, readers, for your interest in the series!

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  19. Sounds like a fun read – would love to win a copy.

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  20. A great setting for a wonderful series. I hope I win this book.

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  21. Valerie Consoer

    Sounds like a great start to a new series! Looking forward to getting to read it!

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  22. What a fun premise for a series. I think this sounds like another book I need to get.

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  23. You had me at “pasta”. Thanks for the giveaway. judydee22002@yahoo dot com

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  24. She is right about Italian food. My husband is Chinese and he loves it. Now I am hungry. Ready to eat my minestrone soup! Thank you for this giveaway.

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  25. Barbara Tobey

    Let’s party like it is 1910! Looks like a fun read.

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  26. Jan Mackinem

    Sounds great! Adding it to my reading list!

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  27. Sounds like a great cozy mystery. Cant wait to read it.

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  28. So glad it’s whetting your appetites! As Fresca, Erin’s mother, says “Mangia, mangia!” (I think that needs no translation — universal mom-speak!)

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  29. Lisa Garrett

    I would love to visit Jewel Bay!

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  30. Karen Gervais

    Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the giveaway/

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  31. wendynewcomb

    Love the title, sounds like another good cozy mystery.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

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  32. Sounds like a great series and if it has Italian food it has to be good.

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  33. “If it has Italian food, it has to be good.” Si, si! Thanks so much for spending the day with me here. Thanks, Dru Ann and friends!

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  34. Darlene Peterson

    I love cozy mysteries and this sounds likea good one. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

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  35. Wow…sounds like it has all the elements that I like in a good cozy…already added to my TBR list!

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  36. Another Cozy mystery series to tempt me!

    Cheli

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  37. Maureen Hayes

    This essay totally sold me on this author and this series, I hope I win so I can get reading this one right away.

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  38. Stacie Amelotte

    Looking forward to this new series. Thanks for the giveaway. 🙂

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  39. Yes, everyone likes Italian food. Make mine spaghetti and meatballs with plenty of parmesan. This series sounds like a winner!

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  40. Thanks Leslie for introducing us to Scarlett and her family.

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  41. contest is closed.

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