Leslie Budewitz’ Distractions

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Have you “met” Leslie Budewitz, the author of the Spice Shop mysteries? You can order her books through the Web Store, as well as the books Leslie used as “Distractions”. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two light-hearted mystery series: the Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle, and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in northwest Montana. Her books focus on strong women who share her passions, and have a talent for finding trouble!

Leslie was the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her guide for writers, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction.

A Montana native, Leslie graduated from Seattle University and Notre Dame Law School. After practicing in Seattle for several years—and shopping and eating her way through the Pike Place Market regularly—she returned to Montana, where she still practices law part-time. Killing people—on the page—is more fun.

A true believer in the power of writers helping other writers, Leslie served as president of Sisters in Crime (SinC) in 2015-16, and a founding member of the Guppies, the SinC chapter for new and unpublished writers. She is the Montana representative to the board of the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and is also a member of the Authors of the Flathead and Montana Women Writers.

Leslie loves to cook, eat, hike, travel, garden, and paint—not necessarily in that order. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, Don Beans, a singer-songwriter and doctor of natural medicine, and their gray Tuxedo, named Squirt but usually called Mr. Kitten. Because what else would you call a 13-year-old, 17-pound killer and cuddler who always dresses in formal attire?

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Leslie Budewitz kicks off her piece with the three questions I asked authors.

Are you reading right now? Has your reading changed? What are you reading?

I am always reading, just like I am always writing. Sometimes, that’s simply a description of who I am and how of I navigate our chaotic world; most of the time, it’s specific. Like a lot of writers, I had a WIP (“work in progress”) and a deadline when the pandemic hit. Writing became both battleground, because focus turned tail in the face of outrageous uncertainty, and once I got the balky storyline in hand, comfort. Both cave of terrors, and refuge.

That same dichotomy struck my reading. Focus? What’s that? Ah, a book. I’ll admit, not every title I picked up in March and April got the attention it deserved; some deserve a second go, and they’ll get it—later. Now I can see that the books I stuck with and loved, highly varied as they are, share a common thread: Times are difficult, they seem to say; they always are, but strong people find a way. In difficult times and in good, books help us find the way.

Good first novels are like a tiny box of truffles, a sweet, satisfying promise. My first recommendation is A Dream of Death by Connie Berry, a 2019 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel.

Kate Hamilton is a widowed American who travels to Scotland at the request of her late husband’s estranged sister, to visit the family home, now a hotel. Historical crimes mingle with modern, leading to investigation, resolution, and a promise of a brighter future. Kate is a mature sleuth, a smart, kind-hearted woman you’d trust with just about anything and happily walk with along the riverbanks. The sequel is out, and I’m looking forward to it.

I absolutely adored Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout’s collection of linked short stories about a difficult woman; I read it several times, made my book club read it—not everyone was as enamored as I—and loved the HBO series starring Frances McDormand. So I picked up Olive, Again, the second volume (2019), with some trepidation—actually, I popped the CDs into my car stereo—and loved it at least as much.

We all have our inner Olive, a generous, cranky, unfiltered woman who spends her adult life in a small, coastal Maine town, raises one son, buries two husbands, and pops in and out of others’ lives when they least expect, and most need, it. Happily, Olive doesn’t dominate every story, but when she does, it’s so interesting, and so much fun.

My dear friend Sheila Connolly, who died in April, published 40-some books, and had a special fondness for Ireland. I was behind on her County Cork series, her most popular, so I caught up, starting with the fifth, Cruel Winter (2017), one of those books you hate to finish because it’s so stinking good.

Connolly neatly twists the conventions of the locked-room mystery. Instead of a killing occurring in a closed setting, a group of locals and visitors stranded in Sullivan’s Pub during an unexpected snowstorm finds that one of their number is a woman long suspected of a local murder. Never charged, she’s never gotten a full hearing, until Maura, the young American pub owner, asks the woman to tell her story. The other patrons prove the adage that a jury as a whole is smarter than its individual members; they ask questions, test the evidence, poke holes, analyze motives, and identify the likely killer, who is arrested after the weather clears. Maura takes charge as a strong leading character should in this terrific eight-book series.

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Leslie Budewitz’ website is www.lesliebudewitz.com. You can find more about her books, their settings, and recipes at that site. Her next book in the Spice Shop series, The Solace of Bay Leaves, is scheduled for release in October. It’s not too early to pre-order a copy through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/2UpAXt6

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.