Tag Archives: Leslie Budewitz

A day in the life of Gabby Drake by Leslie Budewitz

My mother likes to say she was born singing.

But me? Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. The only people who know haven’t seen me since I was born, in China, twenty-two years ago. By the time my parents got me and brought me to this country, I hadn’t spoken a word in months.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t not talk on purpose. I was just listening. I like listening.

And somewhere along the way, maybe while my mother was reliving her days in the opera, belting out arias while she cooked, I decided to start singing, too.

So in this life, I sang before I talked. Music unlocked something inside of me. It still does.

When I hold my guitar—a Gibson L-200 like Emmylou Harris plays—when I hold it, my heartbeat slows and matches the vibration of the strings. It’s got a rosewood fingerboard that feels like it was made for my hands. The mother-of-pearl inlay on the floral vine design on the pickguard is so beautiful, it almost makes me cry.

People say the guitar is as big as me, but it just sounds that way. That’s the sound of maple, and good craftsmanship. We toured the factory in Memphis once, and when we came out to Montana the first time for the Jewel Bay Jazz Festival, my dad wrangled us a tour of the Bozeman factory, too. They don’t usually do that, but my dad is pretty good at getting people to do things they don’t usually do.

I’ve been to a lot of festivals the last few years. Some, like this one, include workshops, and I’ve gotten to learn from some of the finest guitarists and singers in the country. Most of the people who come to study or teach or play at the Jewel Bay Festival are really nice. If they’re not, they don’t get invited back.

In Jewel Bay, it seems like the whole town turns out to hear us play. When we walk down the streets—or street, because there’s only one street downtown, what they call the Village—people call out to us and thank us for the music. Even the really famous musicians have fun here, because they get treated like ordinary people. Once in New York, I saw Bette Midler buying Easter candy for her kids, and the clerks and other shoppers were like “Oh, hi, it’s you. Dark chocolate or milk?” And that’s how it is here, too. A nod of the head, a flick of the brows as if to say “I know who you are and thanks for being here—now, what kind of toast would you like with those eggs?”

But I will admit, sometimes my parents bug me. I know they only want the best for me. The best schools and teachers, the best stages, the best managers and promoters. But after playing here, I’m not sure that their idea of best and mine are the same. My parents may not think much of Jackson Mississippi Boyd and his blues guitar, but his songs make me dance inside. I’ve gotten to hear country artists, and take a master class from the guys who started the LA Guitar Quartet. A flamenco guitarist and his painter wife invited me over for dinner, and I learned more about music and life from them than in an entire semester at the conservatory.

It’s hard to figure out what’s best, you know? When somebody else has always had an idea what you ought to do next, laying it out—and paying for it.

But after what happened this summer, well, I know you’ve got to play your own songs. You’ve got to listen, and learn, and speak when you have something to say. No backing down, no biting your tongue.

So me and my guitar, we’re going to hit the road.

But I’ll always come back to Jewel Bay.


You can read more about Gabby in Tremble At The Jam Fest, the fourth book in the “Food Lovers’ Village” mystery series.

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident? or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

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About the author
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two national best-selling series, the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, and the Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Death Al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The immediate past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.

Find her online at www.LeslieBudewitz.com and on Facebook.

All comments are welcomed.

Buy Link

A Day in the Life with Louis Adams by Leslie Budewitz

Killing ThymeI have lived a good life. A long one—I won’t tell you just how long, because a man’s got to keep some things to himself. I miss my wife and my son every minute of every day, but my heart just about bursts when I think of my two girls—they’re past fifty, each of ’em, but they’ll always be my girls. And my granddaughters—well, there aren’t finer young women around.

Cayenne is named for the ingredient that counts in Tabasco sauce. Lordy, did we miss the stuff when we moved from Louisiana out to Seattle in the 1950s, the way you could smell it on the air. Now you can buy it everywhere, and it’s still good, but it’s even better to have my own reminder, right here in the family. That girl can cook just about anything. She’s an even better cook than her grandmama, and that’s saying a lot.

I thought Cayenne ought to cook in a restaurant, but she said no, she’d rather use her knowledge helping people make their own good food at home. She hired on at the Seattle Spice Shop in the Pike Place Market, working for Pepper Reece. Cayenne and Pepper—can you believe it?

That Pepper, she’s a fiery one. Smart, thank goodness, because she just can’t seem to keep her nose out of trouble. That’s how I met her—she and her dog, Arf, were nosing around in my neighborhood, after a woman got killed. Arf’s one of them Airedales—they call ’em the King of the Terriers—I heard all about it on that TV show, Planet of the Animals, I think it’s called. Anyway, a woman got killed in one of those artists’ studios across the way, and Pepper knew her from way back, and she—well, I won’t tell you what she did, but she found the killer, I’ll tell you that.

This neighborhood sure has changed a lot since me and my beloved moved in. Raised our three kids here. Lost our boy in the war. Bonnie, the woman what got killed, was a potter. She came over to introduce herself and give me a coffee mug she made. I gave her flowers from my backyard. She saw his picture on the sideboard, with his flag and medals. The sight of him bothered her a lot. I learned some things about her later that weren’t too flattering, but I’ll tell you, the way she looked at his picture and let me go on about him, that meant a lot to me. And it told me she was good in her heart.

I like to think most people are good in their hearts, though sometimes you gotta wonder. Especially these days. Now my wife, she would tell me “Lou, you’re being ornery again,” and shake her finger at me to shape up. If I groused about the kids who hang around outside the bakery across the street, their pants half falling down, she’d point out the young dance students and the artists and talk about all their hard work and passion. And she’d be right.

Cayenne and Pepper and the others who work at the Spice Shop, they remind me that people really is good in their hearts. And when they cook good, too, why that makes me happy I’ve lived this long.

Now pass the Tabasco, would you kindly?


Killing Thyme is the third book in the Seattle Spice Shop mystery series, published by Penguin Random House, October 2016.

In Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer in the latest from the national bestselling author of Guilty as Cinnamon.

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun.

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. After Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

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About the author
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two national best-selling series. Killing Thyme, her third Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, was released on October 4. Death Al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The immediate past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.

Find her online at LeslieBudewitz.com and on Facebook. More about Killing Thyme, including an excerpt here.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Killing Thyme. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends October 16, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life—and the Kitchen with Alex Howard by Leslie Budewitz

Guilty as CinnamonI will be the first to admit, I’m no saint. I have a terrible temper. I am impatient beyond belief with stupid employees. Stupid customers, I can handle—you run a restaurant, you run into idiots who think it’s funny to joke that the salmon mousse doesn’t have antlers or horns or whatever moose have as if you’ve never heard that before. Like sixteen thousand times. It’s a wonder I still bother serving the stuff, but it’s so damn good. Excuse me, so darn good.

But stupid employees drive me nuts, in a bad way. So when I find one who adores good food, I go nuts, in a good way.

I am all about good food. Besides, I hire a top-notch front end manager for each of my establishments, and she—or he; I am an equal opportunity employer, which not everyone in the restaurant biz can say—hires only the best wait staff. They handle the stupid customers.

Only the best staff. Which is why I was so rocked when Tamara Langston came to work for me. She’d had a rough time in the biz, with that ex-husband of hers who can’t tell a zucchini from a green bean, and wouldn’t know a decent aioli if it bit him in the you-know-what. But she can cook. Not just make great cakes and salads like so many women in the kitchen, who act like filets are “just too hard—no, Chef, don’t make me!” No, not her. She wanted to know everything I knew, from where to buy the freshest mussels, to how to make my famous green olive popovers, to how to cook with bhut capsicum, the infamous ghost chile.

And I taught her everything I knew. I let her in on all my secrets. Well, not the one from way back when, when Glassy and I first met. We did some stupid things. We managed to avoid paying the price—how, I have never known, but I am not going to look a gift like that in the mouth, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

I gave Tamara the run of my kitchen, the run of my flagship restaurant. I took her in. I sheltered her. I won’t say I taught her everything I know, but damn close. Excuse me, darn close.

Which is why it pissed me off royally that she quit like she did.

Worst part of all—if she hadn’t quit, she might still be alive.


You can read more about Alex in Guilty As Cinnamon, the second book in the “Seattle Spice Shop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Random House. The first book in the series is Assault and Pepper.

ABOUT Guilty As Cinnamon

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Springtime in Seattle’s Pike Place Market means tasty foods and wide-eyed tourists, and Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop is ready for the crowds. With flavorful combinations and a fresh approach, she’s sure to win over the public. Even better, she’s working with several local restaurants as their chief herb and spice supplier. Business is cooking, until one of Pepper’s potential clients, a young chef named Tamara Langston, is found dead, her life extinguished by the dangerously hot ghost chili—a spice Pepper carries in her shop.

Now stuck in the middle of a heated police investigation, Pepper must use all her senses to find out who wanted to keep Tamara’s new café from opening—before someone else gets burned. . .

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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on December 28 for your chance to win a print copy of GUILTY AS CINNAMON. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher. Connect with her through her website and blog at www.LeslieBudewitz.com, and on Facebook.

A Day in the Life with Tracy McCann by Leslie Budewitz

Butter Off DeadI need a motto. Everyone in Jewel Bay, Montana has one. Erin Murphy, my boss and the manager of Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc, likes to say “If it’s made in Montana, it must be good.” Her sister, Chiara (say her name with a hard C and rhyme it with tiara), runs a co-op art gallery in the village and swears that “Art is an essential food group.” Fresca, their mother and one of the smartest, kindest, most beautiful women I’ve ever met, says simply “Shine.”

I love my job. To tell the truth, when Erin came back here a year ago to take over the Merc, I nearly quit. She was pretty bossy, and I thought that if Fresca didn’t want to keep running the place, she should have made me the manager.

But as usual, Fresca was right. Erin does a great job, and she’s a great boss. She’s found the best vendors for the Merc, providing organic local produce, milk, and cheese, huckleberries and morels, fresh eggs, and all variety of meat and poultry, both wild and ranch-grown. And it’s not all food—we carry locally made soap, pottery, and linens, too. She includes me in taste tests for new products and counts on me to design our displays. I’ve learned a lot about retail from watching her.

And she never met a festival she didn’t love. We’ve had the best time creating promotions for the village—I’m super excited about the Food Lovers’ Film Festival. Plus she asked me and Candy Divine to recreate classic movie candy.

Not that we always see eye-to-eye. Don’t tell her I said this, but she can be a bit of a food snob. Like a croissant or a pain au chocolat—sort of like a croissant, but with a chocolate bar baked inside—is actually any holier than a maple bar or a chocolate-covered, cream-filled donut. And I totally do not understand why a double latte is groovier than a Diet Coke.

Now, though, I’m thinking about a change. My boyfriend, Rick Bergstrom, thinks I should open my own shop, making chocolates. I’d get to be my own boss, and rely on my own taste. Set my own hours, choose my own products, keep my own profits. It sounds exciting, and he has tons of business experience for me to call on.

But Erin gave me my first chance to develop my talents as a chocolatier. Bozo, my Harlequin Great Dane, has been sick, and she lets me take off to take care of him any time. She’s even let me bring him to work when I have to, risking the wrath of the health department inspectors. She trusted me when nobody else did. And to tell the truth once more, after watching what she’s gone through the last year, I’m not sure I’m cut out to be the woman in charge.

Whether I stay at the Merc or go, I’ve found my motto: Will Work for Chocolate.


You can read more about Tracy in Butter Off Dead, the third book in the “Food Lovers’ Village” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first two books in the series are Death Al Dente and Crime Rib.

About Butter Off Dead
As the national bestselling Food Lovers’ Village mysteries continue, the merchants of Jewel Bay, Montana try to heat up chilly winter business with a new film festival. But their plans are sent reeling when a dangerous killer dims the lights on a local mover and shaker. . .

In an attempt to woo tourists to Jewel Bay and cheer up the townies, Erin Murphy, manager of the specialty local foods market known as the Merc, is organizing the First Annual Food Lovers’ Film Festival, popping with classic foodie flicks and local twists on favorite movie treats. But when her partner in planning, painter Christine Vandeberg, is found dead only days before the curtain rises, Erin suspects someone is attempting to stop the films from rolling.

To make matters worse, Nick—Erin’s brother and Christine’s beau—has top billing on the suspect list. Convinced her brother is innocent and determined that the show must go on, Erin must find who’s really to blame before Nick gets arrested or the festival gets shut down. And as the anniversary of Erin’s father’s death in a still-unsolved hit-and-run approaches, her own beau isn’t so keen on her leading role.

But the closer Erin gets to shining a spotlight on the killer, the more likely it becomes that she’ll be the next person cut from the program. . .

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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on July 23 for the chance to win a print copy of Butter Off Dead. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected.

About the author
Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on www.LeslieBudewitz.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter

My Musing ~ Assault and Pepper by Leslie Budewitz

Assault and PepperAssault and Pepper by Leslie Budewitz is the first book in the new “Seattle Spice” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, March 2015

After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars. But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on the store’s doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest one of Pepper’s staffers, Tory Finch, for murder.

Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list. . .

In this new series we are introduced to Pepper who runs an aptly named Seattle Spice Shop. When one of her employees is arrested, knowing the ins and out of police investigation comes in handy as Pepper sets out to prove her friend’s innocence.

I like it. I love the way the story flowed and the comfortable tone that made me feel like I was part of the scene. The author did a great job in presenting this finely-tuned whodunit with a mystery that was equally engaging and enticing with its savory flavor of what’s to come. I like how the telling of this drama that was laced with spice tidbits and how it helped moved the story to an outcome befitting this story. Pepper is a great character and I like what we know about her already, her will and determination to do for her friends. This is a great series and I can’t wait to read the next book in this wonderfully appetizing series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

Pepper Reece’s Life in Spice by Leslie Budewitz

Assault and PepperWhen my life blew up—when I stumbled over my now-ex husband, Mr. Bicycle Cop, practically plugging coins into Miss Meter Maid (I can’t bring myself to say “parking enforcement officer”) and then the job I loved, managing staff HR for a huge law firm, disappeared when said law firm imploded in a scandal of court-ordered sanctions, embezzlement, and criminal charges—well, when all came tumbling down, I hardly imagined finding salvation in cinnamon and bay leaves.

But that’s the magic of spice. And of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, a place where anything can happen. It’s been a year and a half now, and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. There is no typical day in the Market—a wild and wooly collection of 300 merchants and restaurants, 200 daystall vendors, and more than 200 residents, along with 10 million visitors a year, in nine acres in the heart of the city. The motto isn’t “where the eccentric is common-place”—but it ought to be!

What do I love best? Impossible to say. The spices themselves, magical, jewel-like ingredients from all over the globe that can be combined in as many different ways as there are cooks. (A map of the world hangs by the front door, with pushpins marking the sources of our supplies.) Working with the cooks themselves, from the tentative beginners unsure of the difference between oregano and marjoram, cinnamon and cassia, to the old pros and commercial accounts, looking for the best, the tastiest, the new and unusual.

The tourists. No recipes or shopping lists for them, but they buy pounds of our signature citrus-and-spice tea, cinnamon sticks, lavender from the Olympic Peninsula, and Puget Sound Sea Salt. And our gift boxes—the perfect hostess gift. (Oh, and our new wedding registry. Nearly forgot. Some days, I wish I could forget it! But we have the loveliest of shower and wedding gifts!)

The employees. I admit, a challenge at times. But when you mix together the right crew—well, the balance is as perfect as any curry or Italian blend.

The space itself. The Market was started in 1907 as a place where the farmers could sell directly to the housewives. Our building dates to the 1930s and it’s an Art Deco gem with a Northwest accent—salmon-pink exterior stucco and forest green trim and awnings. Inside, wood plank floors and high ceilings, clerestory windows, and spice, spice, spice.

So swing by and let us serve you a sample cup of spice tea. Drink it in and let your senses lead you around this marvelous place. Spice is the variety of life, yes, and also one of its true pleasures. I’m so happy for the opportunity to share it with you.


You can read more about Pepper in Assault and Pepper, the first book in the NEW “Seattle Spice Shop” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime.

About ASSAULT AND PEPPER

Pepper Reece, owner of the Seattle Spice Shop, thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix. . .

After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars.

But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on her doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest Tory Finch, one of Pepper’s staffers, for murder.

Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list. . .

Includes Delicious Recipes!

spice mugGIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on March 12 for the chance to win a print copy of Assault and Pepper. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder. Bonus prize from the author: a Spice Shop mug and a bag of Market Spice tea.

About the Author
Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Death Al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and the sequel, Crime Rib (2014), from Berkley Prime Crime. Assault and Pepper, first in her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries debuts in March 2015.

Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How To Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.

For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter. Find her also on Facebook and on Twitter.

Short and Quick Reviews

Crime RibCrime Rib by Leslie Budewitz is the second book in the “Food Lover’s Village” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, July 2014

I love the pace and the comfortable tone of this light fare filled with delicious food to savor and a mystery to solve. The main characters are back and this one kept me glued to the pages, as I had to know who did what to whom.


Cookies and ScreamCookies and Scream by Virginia Lowell is the fifth book in the “Cookie Cutter Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, July 2014

This was an enjoyable read that entertained and kept me engaged from beginning to end with a good mystery that quickly became a page-turner.


Grace Against the ClockGrace Against The Clock by Julie Hyzy is the fifth book in the “Manor House” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, July 2014

This is another great read from Julie Hyzy in a series that continues to shine with a cast of characters that have their own idiosyncrasies that plays in this strong showing.


A Vision in VelvetA Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell is the sixth book in the “Witchcraft” mystery series.  Publisher: Obsidian, July 2014

This series gets better and better with each book and I’m glad. This was a great read and fun as well. I enjoy the interaction and dialogue among this great cast of characters. A good mystery that quickly became a page-turner. I look forward to the next book in this magically delightful series.


Terminal CityTerminal City by Linda Fairstein is the 16th book in the “Alexander Cooper” thriller series. Publisher: Dutton, June 2014

I love this book. The suspense kept me turning the pages and the banter between Mercer and Coop and Coop and Mike kept me entertained. I also love how Linda uses NYC as the backdrop and with this one gave us an inside look at Grand Central Terminal. Keep up the good work and I look forward to the next adventures with Mercer, Coop and Mike.

A Day in the Life of Erin Murphy by Leslie Budewitz

Crime RibHere in Montana, we love our festivals. Summers are short and stunning—and in every corner of the state, we celebrate. The Festival of Nations. Mule Days. Homesteader Days. Buzzard Days—honoring ‘nature’s cleaners’. The Strawberry Festival. Rendezvous Days. Pow Wows. The Sweet Pea Festival of the Arts. Dog and Grog, celebrating hot dogs and cold beer. Lewis & Clark Reenactments. Music festivals: jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, guitar, Mozart. And on and on—not to mention Huckleberry Days in half a dozen towns, celebrating the tart, purple jewels Montanans fight the bears for every August.

So earlier this summer, not long after I came back to Jewel Bay to take over my family’s century-old general store, I talked the village merchants into starting a new festival. The Festa di Pasta, to kick off summer and celebrate the Merc’s transformation into a market filled with local foods and treats. A weekend celebrating Italian fare, with music in the streets and fun and games for all ages, seemed perfect. But when I found our former manager dead in the alley on opening night and my mother was accused of murder—well, not so perfect. (You can read how I managed to save both Fresca and the store, after confronting a chef bent on keeping his past a secret, challenging my old friend, now the local sheriff’s detective, and rescuing my new boyfriend and my shop assistant from permanent cold storage in Death al Dente.)

So when the 35th Annual Jewel Bay Summer Art and Food Festival rolled around, I decided to take a backseat. Sure, Fresca and Old Ned Redaway started the Festival, years before I was born, and yes, its success to vital to the village economy. And I’ll help—the tiny, unincorporated town would be nothing without its volunteers, and my family’s always been among the first to raise our hands. But I’m just going to enjoy the fun. I’ll scout for new vendors for the Merc. I’ll drool over the pottery—maybe even pick up a piece or two. I’ll be glad to assist the crew of the TV show Food Preneurs, in town to film the event and give the local cooks and artists some national attention. And I’ll eat my fill at the Grill-off, the friendly competition to see which village chef serves up the best steak. But that’s it. I’m not taking charge of anything.

But you know it doesn’t turn out that way. When the show’s producer is killed in a hit-and-run, Erin is drafted to step in. Then one of the contestants is attacked and dies. To keep the town’s reputation from crashing and burning on national TV, Erin must grill a few suspects to smoke out the killer. It might not be pretty, and it might not make Undersheriff Ike Hoover or Detective Kim Caldwell happy. But you know she’ll do it—as Fresca says, “Murphy girls don’t quit.” And you know that in the end, Erin will serve up truth and justice. All for the love of the Merc and Jewel Bay.


About Crime Rib (second in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, July 1, 2014, Berkley Prime Crime):

“Gourmet food market owner Erin Murphy is determined to get Jewel Bay, Montana’s scrumptious local fare some national attention. But her scheme for culinary celebrity goes up in flames when the town’s big break is interrupted by murder…

Food Preneurs, one of the hottest cooking shows on TV, has decided to feature Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode, and everyone in town is preparing for their close-ups, including the crew at the Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc. Not only is Erin busy remodeling her courtyard into a relaxing dining area, she’s organizing a steak-cooking competition between three of Jewel Bay’s hottest chefs to be featured on the program.

But Erin’s plans get scorched when one of the contending cooks is found dead. With all the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to figure out who didn’t have a motive to off the saucy contestant. Now, to keep the town’s rep from crashing and burning on national television, Erin will have to grill some suspects to smoke out the killer…”

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 22 for the chance to win a copy of CRIME RIB. (US entries only, please.)

About the author
Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Crime Rib, LeslieBthe second in the series, was published by Berkley Prime Crime on July 1, 2014. Her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015.

Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.

For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter.

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Death Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz

Death al DenteDeath Al Dente by Leslie Budewitz is the first book in the new “Food Lovers’ Village” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, August 2013

The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as a Food Lovers’ Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead.

Murphy’s Mercantile, known as the Merc, has been a staple in Jewel Bay for over a hundred years. To celebrate their recent makeover as a gourmet food market, Erin has organized a town festival, Festa di Pasta, featuring the culinary goods of Jewel Bay’s finest—including her mother Fresca’s delicious Italian specialties.

But Erin’s sweet success is soured when the shop’s former manager, Claudette, is found dead behind the Merc on the Festa’s opening night. With rival chef James Angelo stirring up rumors that Fresca’s sauce recipes were stolen from Claudette, Erin’s mother is under close scrutiny. Now Erin will have to hunt down some new suspects, or both her family and her store might wind up in hot water.

When her mother becomes the prime suspect in her ex-employee’s death, Erin with her spreadsheet will do everything possible to clear her mother’s name and reputation. This enjoyable read was hard to put down. I love the tone of the story and how it flowed giving us a glimpse into the characters’ lives. With each character introduction, I was left with “are they the killer” or “just an innocent bystander”. It was fun getting to know the ins-and-outs of Jewel Bay and how they all intermingled with one another. With a good solid plot and subplot, the mysteries enticed me to read more as I narrowed down the list of suspects. I love the small town feel and the dialogue was entertaining. This delightfully charming debut series is a fresh, homegrown whodunit that satisfied my thirst for adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next in Jewel Bay. Bonus recipes are included.

FTC Full Disclosure – I bought this book.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog