Local author finds a spicy niche in cozy food series

It’s Christmas in July with Leslie Budewitz’s cozy new culinary mystery, “Peppermint Barked” coming out July 19th. The Ferndale author has concocted the sixth installment in his Spice Shop Mystery series.

Sizzling with holiday suspense, “Peppermint Barked” is the perfect blend of comfort and crime.

As the holiday season lights up Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece’s beloved Spice Shop is teeming with cinnamon, nutmeg and customers eager to fill their stockings. Add to that a tasty competition from the staff – a peppermint bark – as well as Victorian costumes for this year’s Dickens Christmas theme, and Pepper almost forgets being nervous about meeting her little one’s brother. fisherman friend for the first time.

But when a young woman working at her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally assaulted, costumed revelers and holiday cheer are the last things on Pepper’s mind. Who would want to hurt Beth? Or were they looking for Vinny instead?

The vicious attack upsets everyone at Pike Place, but neither does Pepper’s employee Matt Kemp. At first, Pepper is taken aback by her reaction, but her clandestine connection to Beth might hold the key to the attacker’s motive. Or maybe it’s Vinny’s ex-wife who knows more than she’s letting on…and what about the mysterious man in the top hat Pepper saw Beth arguing with this morning -the ?

As the secrets of the market are revealed, long-standing grudges, family ties and hidden plans only obscure the truth further. As Pepper chases a killer, someone chases her, and in the end, the Legendary Market itself may hold the last deadly clue.

The Daily Inter Lake caught up with Budewitz last month as she prepared the draft for what will be the seventh novel in her popular detective series.

Budewitz, a Billings native, has lived just off the Swan Highway in Ferndale for 22 years, where she practiced law full-time from 1992 to 2016. A graduate of Seattle University and Notre Dame Law School , Budewitz previously practiced law in Seattle for a number of years.

“I hope to come back to Seattle this fall,” Budewitz said. “Part of the reason for going there is to book events and connect with friends, and a big part of it is to research…and by research, of course, I mean eat.”

Budewitz’s love of food took root when she moved to Seattle in 1977 as a freshman just as the Pike’s Place market was experiencing a resurgence. She frequented the market and often went to Market Spice to get a free tea sample.

“I started to get intrigued by the spices,” she said. “Years later when I came back to Seattle as a young lawyer, I had an office downtown and had lunch at the market at least once a week, and did a lot of shopping at the market. It was a trigger for me to learn so much more about food and cooking.

Budewitz began his Spice Shop Mystery series in 2015 with “Assault and Pepper.” The series’ main character, Pepper Reece, reeling from a divorce and losing his job at a law firm, decides to make a fresh start and opens the Seattle Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

“Over the past seven years, Pepper’s character has evolved in her confidence in both business and personal relationships,” Budewitz said. “Pepper said of those years that her life exploded, so she looked for ‘Consolation in the bay leaves.'” – not coincidentally the title of the fifth book in the series.

“In her personal life, after a few disastrous relationships, Pepper meets fisherman Nate Seward,” Budewitz said. “And now, on ‘Peppermint Barked,’ things are pretty smooth, she’s confident, they’re solid.”

“Writing the food cozies required me to do a lot of research and cooking…and eating,” Budewitz said with a laugh. His books also feature high recipes.

The local author also blogs with a group of a dozen other foodie writers called “Mystery Lovers Kitchen – Mystery Writers Cooking Up Crime and Recipes.” She is also a board member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as president of Sisters in Crime National in 2015-2016, having been a member of both organizations for 25 years.

“The original goal of this organization was to promote female mystery writers at a time when women were much less likely to have their books reviewed,” Budewitz said. “Even though they posted as much as men, men received seven times as many reviews.”

She says getting involved with national organizations was important to her because she was relatively isolated in northwest Montana in the pre-internet days.

As for whether Budewitz has a final novel planned for her Spice Shop Mystery series, she says no.

“I love the characters. Readers love the characters. At this point, I plan to keep writing it as long as the publisher has me and as long as readers love the books.

Budewitz also wrote five novels for his Food Lovers Village Mystery.

Series and collection of short stories set in Jewel Bay, a fictionalized version of Bigfork.

“Montana has always had a mystique and I love playing with that,” she said. “It’s such a special place. I believe that where we live influences our life experiences, and relationships to place influence our actions.

Although at this point Budewitz has no plans for additional novels in this series, in April 2021 she released a new thriller titled “Bitterroot Lake” under the pseudonym Alicia Beckman. Beckman’s next novel “Blind Faith” will be released in October.

“The publisher wanted me to come up with another name for these darker, slightly darker thrillers to distinguish them from my lighter, more comfortable novels,” she said. “The name honors my mother and my grandmother.”

A three-time National Agatha Award winner, Budewitz’s advice to budding local writers is to take writing classes at Flathead Valley Community College and visit local Flathead writers’ meetings.

As for advice for budding writers, she says, “Read. Lily. Lily. Analyze what you read. Then put your back in the chair.


A talk with Ferndale author Leslie Budewitz and a book launch party for “Peppermint Barked,” the latest novel in his “Spice Shop Mystery Series,” will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 23 at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center .

Lola R. McClure