Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: Assault and Pepper (Spice Shop #1) by Leslie Budewitz

The Agatha Award-winning author of Crime Rib is proud to introduce Pepper Reece, the owner of the Seattle Spice Shop who 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 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. 

Victoria, Phyllis, tax law, and me

By Leslie Budewitz

Victoria Holt got me through law school. Phyllis Whitney helped, and Mary Stewart did her part.
Fifteen minutes of romantic suspense every night wiped all thoughts of torts and taxes from my head so I could sleep. (In the case of taxes, they might have done their job too well—least favorite class, worst grade ever. Ah, well.)

Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert (1906-1993) wrote 32 romantic suspense novels as Victoria Holt, oodles of historical novels as Phillipa Carr, and dozens more under Jean Plaidy and other pseudonyms. (Sales of her Holt novels, the most popular, exceed 60 million copies!) I first encountered her on my mother’s bookshelves, devouring her first, Mistress of Mellyn (1960), as a teenager in the mid 1970s. Not long after, I started working in Waldenbooks in Rimrock Mall in Billings, Montana. At that point, Waldenbooks had just begun its transition from a behind-the-scenes company that ran book departments in departments stores across the country to a company that operated its own stores. (I also worked in one of those contract stores, for the Hart-Albin Company, where as a ten-year-old I bought my first hardcover book, Calico Bush by Rachel Field, still a fave.)

The gothic romance or suspense novel was big in the mid 70s, and we sold scores of novels by Holt, Whitney, and Stewart. Hibbert’s Plaidy and Carr novels didn’t pique my interest, but I devoured the others.

“There is no Frigate like a Book / to take us Lands away,” Emily Dickinson wrote. I traveled with Holt throughout England, to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), Egypt, Australia, and other lands away. Hibbert was English, and her books tended toward Empire settings, though one featured Paris and one or two took us to the Far East.

Her American counterpart, Phyllis Whitney (1903-2008), published thirty-nine adult novels and dozens of “novels and mysteries for young people,” as the flyleaf of her Guide to Fiction Writing (1982) calls them. Though she too used exotic settings, her heroines were usually American. I fondly remember Poinciana (1980), set in a mansion on the Florida coast. Vermilion (1981) introduced this Montana girl to Arizona, Spindrift (1975) to the elegance of turn-of-the-century Newport, and The Singing Stones (1990) to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Some of the conventions Holt and Whitney used, and those of Mary Stewart, may seem dated and melodramatic to the modern reader. The pace was slow, the heroines often young and innocent, as they learned to follow their hearts—often, to the arms of a dashing and occasionally dubious and misunderstood older man. Some of Whitney’s heroines, especially after about 1980, feature women with educations and careers. In lesser hands, heroines of the genre are young and foolish, even TSTL—too stupid to live, hearing a noise in the night and venturing, alone, into the ancient stone cellar wearing only a negligee and carrying a candle. (Oh, for a cell phone on the moors or in the desert canyons!)

I still have the books, even the purloined Mistress of Mellyn. When I first began writing, a friend gave me a well-worn copy of Whitney’s writing book, a wise and wonderful guide. Though I’m not much of a re-reader—too many new novels to discover—I keep them because they are my friends. They were exactly what I needed at that challenging time.

Now that I’m writing mysteries myself, I cherish the notes and e-mails from readers who tell me my books took their mind off a problem or got them through a sleepless night. That is, I think, one of the highest compliments a reader can give: This book was a friend when I needed one.

Do you remember a book or an author that helped you relax or get through a difficult time?

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). 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.

Wow!  What a GREAT start to a new series!  The setting of Seattle is superb.  Pepper and Alex are absolutely wonderful characters.  The spiciness of the theme is perfect.  The mystery had me thinking I was right until the very end... and shocked me!  The elements of this book come together and give you everything you need for a fantastic new cozy.  

I can't wait to see what book two has in store for us! :) 

Rating: 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


holdenj said...

Congrats to Leslie on the new book, I am looking forward to it! I remember my mom reading all of those authors! I read some Phyllis Whitney too--does anyone else remember her young adult mysteries, that took place all over the world?

Jeanetta said...

Assault and Pepper sounds like a great book. I am looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the review.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Thanks for the lovely review, Marie! I'm delighted to be here.

Fishmom23 said...

Can't wait to read Assault and Pepper. Love the cover!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Fish Mom, thanks -- this may be my favorite cover so far!
Thanks, Jen!
J -- I never read Whitney's YAs, but I bet they were as riveting as the rest!

Terri said...

Thanks for the chance! I would love to read this book! There are 2 authors who got me through tough times when I was younger V.C.Andrews and Johanna Lindsey! I also keep many books but rarely do I reread them and like you said they are old friends who I just don't want to part with!

jawdance said...

I would love to win this book. Thanks for the chance!

Leslie Budewitz said...

That's quite the pair, Terri -- very different types of books! Thank goodness there are so many books for different moods!

Mama Cat said...

What a fun interview - so good to see, including the history of some of the great lady mystery writers! There are many authors who take my mind away...some are cozy mystery writers, some are Christian Historical fiction and some are Christian suspense. My sweet husband is not a reader so he doesn't understand, but I keep many of the books I read, as you and others have agreed, they are like friends! And I think "when I retire and can't buy any more books, will enjoy these again and again". I would love to win this one, in the meantime!! jeaniedannheim (at) ymail (dot) com

Leslie Budewitz said...

Thanks, Jeanie! I think you express beautifully the love for these old friends that many of us feel.


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the giveaway! There are too many March books I would like to read but Assault and Pepper tops that list!

Unknown said...

I would like to read Assault and Pepper.

Deb said...

I am looking forward to reading this new book.

Anonymous said...

I've been waiting forever for Assault and Pepper to come out. Great write up about this book!

Leslie Budewitz said...

Thanks to all of you for visiting with me on the blog. I hope you enjoy the trip to Seattle as much as I enjoyed taking you there!

Post a Comment

Blogger Templates