As regular readers no doubt know, I’ve been doing a long-running monthly series on specific mystery series, most of which have been recommended by site readers. This month I’ll be featuring Leslie Budewitz‘s Spice Shop Mystery Series by reading the first book in the series, Assault and Pepper. The second Cozy mystery series by Budewitz, this is a fairly established series, with this first entry coming out more than eight years ago and with a total of seven books in the series.
40s-something divorcee Pepper Reece is the owner of the Seattle Spice Shop, which she started running about a year before the beginning of the novel, so she’s already somewhat established by the time the story begins. Her divorce is a result of her husband’s affair with a coworker, while her change in career from a law firm HR manager is due to the failure of the firm. Moreover, she is a life-long resident of Seattle, she’s an even more established part of her community. Her ex-husband is also part of the police force, giving her a connection to local law enforcement – though one she doesn’t really want to call upon if she can avoid it.
The theming in this novel is quite strong – at the very beginning, there is a significant stretch where Pepper and her employees talk about their new recipe ideas for a new spice-themed Fall spice blends, for example. This will no doubt be a big draw for fans of teas and spices.
The mystery also kicks off relatively early, though it does take some time to be revealed as a definite murder. When Pepper discovers the body of a panhandler named Doc. Doc, who was new to the area, had a cup of the Seattle Spice Shop found near him. He had already formed a bit of an impression as a troublesome outsider, coming into conflict with another panhandler and with one of Pepper’s employees. The case is originally assumed a death by natural causes, as Doc had been obviously quite old. when that employee is arrested, Pepper becomes more directly involved in the case to help clear her name.
Overall, this novel gives a good sense of atmosphere to the “Seattle Public Market” – likely a reference to the real Pike Place Market due to several references to street locations in the book. It also serves the theming admirably, spending significant time discussing various spice applications and weaving it into many otherwise normal mystery conversations.
As mentioned above, Leslie Budewitz is also the author of another Cozy Mystery Series, the Food Lovers’ Village Mystery Series.
If you’d like to see other entries about some of the most recommended Cozy Mystery authors, be sure to check out the Most Popular and Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.
PS: For fans of recipes, this novel does include a recipe section at the back including a number of seasoning and spice-forward recipes.