Armchair Travel

The Solace of Bay Leaves

“There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away,” Emily Dickinson wrote, and though she rarely left Amherst or even her home, she was so right. Many of us had trouble reading when the pandemic first hit—days at home with no appointments, no running around, seems like the perfect time to read until it descends, dusted with anxiety and uncertainty. But that sense has eased for me, and I hope for you, too.

Mr. Right and I had a grand adventure in January, traveling to Paris to see the Louvre’s exhibit commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo DaVinci in France, in 1519. Besides spending the day at the exhibit, which was truly magnificent, we walked, wandering Paris, getting lost, finding churches and statues and gardens we might never have found with a plan. So in May, I found myself craving a touch of Paris. The only unread book on my shelves set there was an ARC (advance review copy) of Mission to Paris by Alan Furst, historical espionage set in 1938-39, following an Austrian-born American actor in Paris to make a movie who finds himself the target of German operatives who need a mole in the industry. I have no idea how I got the book—most likely a promo copy in a mystery convention book bag—but it was great fun. The actor’s home base in Paris is a hotel in the First—la Premiere—the district where we stayed, and I enjoyed tracing his travels through the city with the map on the frontispiece and my own memory. Furst has written a series of novels set in Europe in the run up to WW II and during the war, and they’re worth searching out.

Then a friend gave me The Little French Bistro by Nina George, author of The Little Paris Bookshop. Though Bistro starts and ends in Paris, much of the book is set in a small town on the Breton coast, a part of the country I haven’t visited. Not in person, anyway. It’s delightful—the story of a woman blossoming at 60 after a lifetime of oppression, finally making her own choices and finding joy in happy accidents.

I loved New Orleans on my one visit and am eager to return with Mr. Right, but visiting on the page is great—no heat, no bugs! Plus it’s so easy to get out of the city—just turn the page! The Orion Mask by Greg Herron is an homage to the gothic mysteries of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, following a young gay man who discovers that the mother he never knew came from a family with a grand history and a terrible secret that could have consequences for him all these years later. Set partly in NOLA and partly on a plantation a short drive away. Spooky, atmospheric, and fun.

If there were a prize for best title, The Murderess of Bayou Rosa by Ramona DeFelice Long would win. How can you not pick that up? Set in the early 1920s in a small town southwest of NOLA, with later scenes in Baton Rouge and Memphis, it’s the story of Geneva Amais, a young teacher, and her mother, Joelle, the murderess. Family secrets drive this book, too, and it’s a great trip.

Where to next? So many choices! Where are you booking your travel these days?

Pepper’s Book Shelf — What’s the Mistress of Spice reading now?

In CHAI ANOTHER DAY, the latest Spice Shop mystery, Pepper doesn’t have as much time for reading as in the earlier installments. But she does love a good mystery, and she’s got a few other new faves, as well.

Here’s the link to earlier installments of Pepper’s Book Self, filled with recommendations for her favorite foodie mysteries and historical mysteries, along with a few cookbooks and spice references.

In CHAI, Pepper is still working on the food education of Matt Kemp, one of her new hires, and gives him a copy of Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner, her  go-to guide on the history of spice and its role in the global economy. She also gives him a terrific history of Pike Place Market, and Soul of the City, by Alice Shorett and Murray Morgan.

She’s been saving the last few Brother Cadfael mysteries by Ellis Peters, and finally dips into A Rare Benedictine, a trio of Cadfael short stories. She’s tempted by Murder in Union Square, the latest in Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-last-century New York, and Turning the Tide, one of the adventures of Edith Maxwell’s Quaker midwife sleuth.

And of course, she once again consults The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, by Steven Kerry Brown.

Some of the new culinary mysteries she and the Spice Shop crew are excited about: books by Barbara Ross, Ellie Alexander, Cleo Coyle, and Lucy Burdette.

Happy reading — and happy eating!

 

Book Launch News — Chai Another Day

lleslie budewitz chai another dayFinally, it’s time to CHAI ANOTHER DAY! The fourth Seattle Spice shop mystery is out today, in trade paper and ebook, from Seventh St. Books. (The audio is coming August 6th.)

From the cover: 

Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece probes murder while juggling a troubled employee, her mother’s house hunt, and a fisherman who’s set his hook for her.

As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee’s vintage home decor shop that ends in murder.

Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend – and Pepper herself.

*** As many of you know, it’s been a while since the third in the series, KILLING THYME, came out. I’m enormously pleased to have a new publisher — and as much in love with Arf the dog, on the cover, as ever! This is my tenth book and ninth novel, which is a bit mind-blowing, and I’m grateful to all of you who’ve waited patiently for this installment. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing! Deal?

Indie Bookseller Spotlight: The Bookstore, Dillon, Montana

I heart indie booksellers. I was a Teenage Bookseller, my second-favorite job ever. (Top job? Mystery writer, of course!)

So I’m starting something new here. Every so often – how often, I don’t know – I’m going to shine a little spotlight on an indie bookseller I’ve met and particularly enjoy.

First up: Debbie Lame Sporich, owner of The Bookstore in Dillon, Montana. How can you not adore a bookstore with a Bovine Bibliophile welded from cast-off metal outside? (Piscture below.) Inside are new books, used books, cards, art supplies, and a big, beautiful woman with a fabulous smile and infectious laugh. We met when The Bookstore and the Dillon Public Library, an original Carnegie, co-sponsored a writing workshop last fall and invited me to teach, along with Barb BJ Daniels and Allen Morris Jones. (That’s us below, me in the middle and Barb on the right, in front of a display of our books in the UM-Western Library.) We had a blast. Read on – I think you’ll be as charmed as I.

About Debbie, in her own words: A lover of words, a student of life, a collector of dictionaries, the wife of Bill, I love to laugh and I take a book to the movie theater. I ride a pink Honda Scooter. A sometime artist who plays with watercolor and creates personal meditation boxes. Lives with a goldendoodle named Tonka. Eldest of 4 sisters, born and bred Montanan, raised in Augusta on a ranch. After college at UM, moved to Dillon, an area full of history and local authors. I love to help others find that perfect book. I wake each day (grumpy) but eventually find my groove and I love what I do. Life just doesn’t get any better than this.

I finish about 5 books a week – I may wake up grumpy because I stay up too late reading! I’m working on a review of March by Geraldine Brooks for the local Shakespeare Book Club, which has been active for over 120 years. Also reading right: Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard, Less than a Treason by Dana Stabenow, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, by Anthony Roberts, Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner, Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, The Work is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, and 1000 Books to Read Before You Die – I am making lists!

Tell us about The Bookstore: Established in 1984; I bought it in 1992, knowing nothing about running a business – I just knew that I loved reading and books. We are an independent bookstore with a little bit of everything, and a great collection of local and regional authors. I love working with kids of all ages and I get excited when they discover an author who speaks to them.

What do you love most about being a bookseller? Almost everything. What I get to do that online stores don’t is be involved with my customers. I get to pick out books for baby showers, help the harried parent find something new to read because if they have to read (fill in the blank) one more time they may lose their mind — I get to hold that child on my lap and read to them during story time, I get to help them spend that money from Grandma on a new book, I get to celebrate that move from easy reader to chapter book and I get to talk to them about all the books along the way. I am now seeing children of kids who hung out here when they were kids. I get to see the look in their eyes when they find that book. I still get goosebumps when I walk through the door, every day. I love that I get to be surrounded by books all day and talk to people who love books all day. I am better at reading books than doing books, so I have an accountant!

What’s flying off your shelves this winter? Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, Royal Wulff Murders, The Meateater Cookbook, Educated, and anything by Mary Oliver. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Maid, by Stephanie Lund of Missoula.

Debbie will happily ship new books and see if something you’re looking for is in her used book collection. Check her website, email debbie at dillonbooks dot net or call the shop at 406-683-6807 https://www.dillonbookstore.com/

Plus, how can you not adore a bookstore with a Bovine Bibliophile out front?

‘Tis the day! Launch Day for AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES

Just like a kid at Christmas, we wait and wait — and then, all of a sudden, it’s here! Launch Day for AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers’ Village Mystery. More details, including an excerpt and buy links, on my website.

“Clean-as-a-whistle dialogue, endearing characters, and a solid plot make this cozy a winner.” – Publishers Weekly

Tis the season — As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles coming soon!

Delighted to tell you that AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers’ Village Mystery will be released on June 8, in paperback, e-book, and audio (Midnight Ink/Recorded Books).

From the cover: 
Erin is one smart cookie, but can she keep the holiday spirit—and herself—alive til Christmas?

In Jewel Bay, Montana’s Christmas Village, all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, aka the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

The early reviews are thrilling! Publishers Weekly says “Clean-as-a-whistle dialogue, endearing characters, and a solid plot make this cozy a winner.” And Kirkus Reviews, notoriously difficult to please, says ” “Budewitz’s finely drawn characters, sharp ear for dialogue, and well-paced puzzle make Jewel Bay a destination for every cozy fan.”

I’ll be celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas on my Facebook page, from May 22 to June 5, with giveaways of Christmas mysteries by friends of mine, including Victoria Hamilton, Vicki Delany, Lucy Burdette, and Cleo Coyle, along with bookstore giftcards and holiday-themed prizes. Visit the page, like it, and comment, for a chance to win.

You know how I love to talk about books and writing! I’ll be in Seattle, Bigfork, Augusta, Billings and Bozeman in June, and later in the summer, in Polson and Missoula. Details on the News & Events page on my website.

And as in past years, my publisher has arranged a blog tour, with essays, interviews, and reviews. Many of the tour stops will include a chance to win a book. Here’s the tour:
May 30 — Writers Who Kill — interview
June 5 — Jungle Red Writers — guest post
June 6 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book  — guest post
June 7 – The Book’s the Thing
June 7 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies
June 7 – A Blue Million Books — interview
June 8 — Cinnamon & Sugar and A Little Bit of Murder — a baker we all wish lived next door shows you how to make my Fudge Ecstasies, one of my favorite Christmas cookies!
June 8 – The Avid Reader
June 8 – The Montana Bookaholic
June 8 – Carole’s Book Corner — guest post
June 9 – MJB Reviewers
June 9 – Texas Book-aholic
June 10 – Rosepoint Publishing
June 10 – Cozy Up With Kathy — guest post
June 11 — Dru’s Book Musings — an interview with Erin Murphy, star of the show
June 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews
June 11 – Babs Book Bistro
June 11 – Ruff Drafts
June 12 – The Power of Words
June 12 – Island Confidential – author interview
June 12 – StoreyBook Reviews – guest post
June 13 – Valerie’s Musings
June 14 – cherylbbookblog
June 14 – My Reading Journeys
June 15 – Reading Is My SuperPower
June 15 – A Holland Reads
June 16 – A Chick Who Reads
June 17 –   Mysteries with Character – author interview
June 18 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog
June 18 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews
June 19 – Bibliophile Reviews
June 19 – Laura’s Interests
June 19 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
June 20 – Melina’s Book Blog
June 20 – Brooke Blogs – guest post

I hope to celebrate Christmas in June with you, somewhere along the way!

 

 

Celebrate with me! Release Day for Treble at the Jam Fest

leslie budewitz's treble at the jam festOh, look, a book! By me! You may be used to it by now, but if it ever stops thrilling me, it will be time to hang up my pen — or my keyboard!

TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, #4 in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, officially launches today, from Midnight Ink, in trade paperback and e-book. Watch for the audio book later this summer.

From the cover:  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.

If you shop online, here are the links:
IndieBound
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Fact & Fiction 

If you shop in person, you can find TREBLE and my other books in Whitefish at Bookworks, in Kalispell at the Bookshelf, Montana Marie (formerly Think Local), and the Hockaday Art Center, in Missoula at Fact & Fiction, Shakespeare & Co, and Barnes & Noble, and in Bigfork at Roma’s Kitchen Shop, Bay Books, and the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center.

And here’s where I’ll be this summer, live events and blog tour stops–posts about the book and writing life, interviews, reviews, and the occasional giveaway! And remember, you can find me and a recipe at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays, and on Killer Characters on the 27th of each month.

Thanks for being part of the fun! And remember, wherever you go this summer, be sure to take a good book!

Let the music play — Treble at the Jam Fest is on the way!

leslie budewitz's treble at the jam festAfter a short break, Erin and the villagers return on June 8, in TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, the 4th Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, from Midnight Ink (trade paperback and e-book; audio later this summer).

When the body of an internationally renowned guitarist is found on the banks of the river outside town during the annual Jewel Bay Jazz Festival, Erin investigates to protect the community, and keep the music playing.

More details, and an excerpt, on my website.

I’ve got a lot of fun planned, and I hope you’ll join me along the way—in person, or on the screen. Here’s where I’ll be live:

Wed June 7, 2017, 7 pm, Tattered Cover, Aspen Grove (Denver) Book talk and signing

Thurs June 8, 2017, 7 pm, Rocky Mountain chapter, Mystery Writers of America (Denver) CADA (see RM-MWA website for specifics)
Common mistakes fiction writers make about the law

Sat June 10, 2017, 5:30 Bigfork Art & Cultural Center
Celebrate the new book in the hometown!

Tues June 13, 2017, 7 pm Fact & Fiction, Missoula
Whitefish mystery writer Christine Carbo and I celebrate our new books together!

Thurs June 15, 2017, noon Seattle Mystery Bookshop
Signing and chatting, with Martin Walker, author of the Bruno mysteries! 

Thurs June 15, 2017, 7 pm Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park (Seattle)
Book talk and signing

Saturday, July 1, 2:00 Montana Book & Toy Co., Helena
Signing and chatting about mystery!

Sat-Sun, August 5-6, 2017 Bigfork Festival of the Arts
Celebrating and signing, in the Village!

And join me on line for a great blog tour–posts about the book and writing life, interviews, reviews, and the occasional giveaway! And remember, you can find me and a recipe at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays, and on Killer Characters on the 27th of each month.

June 6 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

June 6 – Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder – REVIEW

June 6 – View from the Birdhouse – SPOTLIGHT

June 7 — Cozy Wednesday on Escape with Dollycas — talking about music festivals

June 7 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 7 – A Cozy Experience – REVIEW

June 8 — Dru’s Book Musings — A Day in the Life of guitar phenom Gabby Drake

June 8 – I Wish I Lived in a Library – REVIEW

June 8 – Brooke Blogs – GUEST POST

June 9 — Mysteristas – interview

June 9 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW

June 9 – Books,Dreams,Life – SPOTLIGHT

June 10 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

June 10 – Bookworm Cafe – SPOTLIGHT

June 11 – 3 Partners  in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT

June 11 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 12 – Author Annette Drake’s blog – INTERVIEW

June 12 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 13 – Books Direct – GUEST POST

June 13 – Queen of All She Reads – SPOTLIGHT

June 14 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

June 14 – Deal Sharing Aunt – INTERVIEW

June 15 – Classy Cheapskate – REVIEW

June 15 – Cassidy’s Bookshelves – GUEST POST

June 16 – Varietats – REVIEW

June 16 – Teresa Trent Author Site – SPOTLIGHT

June 17 –  Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW

June 18 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW

June 19 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 19 – My Journey Back – REVIEW

Wherever your summer takes you, be sure to take a good book!

The Last Best Reads—My Favorite Books of 2016

IMGP1761“The Last Best Book” is my occasional post on a favorite recent read — playing on one of Montana’s many nicknames, The Last Best Place.  A handful were published in 2016; others go back a few years. I’ve included audio books—yes, listening to a book is reading it, albeit a different experience. And I love audios—the narrators create their own worlds for me, and I get to read books, especially nonfiction, that I might not otherwise pick up.

Of 57 titles, including 46 novels or story collections, 18 were published in 2016 and 13 in 2015. (One will come out in 2017.) Yay—I’m catching up! No doubt I’ll still have read like a demon this spring to be ready to vote for the Agatha Awards, especially since only one of those 2016 titles was a first book. But books from earlier years rose to the top as well, so I’m listing my faves, in no particular order, regardless of when they were published.

FAVORITE NOVELS: 
The Last Bus to Wisdom, Ivan Doig (2015) Alas, the last novel by the great Montana writer, but a fitting end to a storied career. IMO, Doig was at his best when writing in the voice of a young boy—here, Donal Cameron, age 11, sent by “dog bus” (the Greyhound) from north-central Montana to a great-aunt he’s never met in Wisconsin, in 1951. Part road trip, part buddy story, part coming–of-age novel, with Doig’s keen eye and ear—pure delight.

The Orphan Train, Cristina Baker Kline (2013) An intriguing snippet of history, with a surprising modern parallel. 

Whistling Past the Graveyard, Susan Crandall (2014) Hmm. The third historical coming-of-age novel on the list. A different time and place—Mississippi, 1963—but just as powerful.

Little Pretty Things (2015) and The Day I Died (2017), Lori Rader-Day. The winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award for 2015 is a major new talent.

Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman (2016) Not sure whether I’m more impressed by the story or its structure. Masterful.

The Ex, Alafair Burke (2016) Smart and wicked—a great combo.

Down River, John Hart (2007, audio) and A Killing at Cotton Hill, Terry Shames (2013) Two authors who deserve to be better known. Set in North Carolina (Hart) and Texas (Shames), both books convey their authors’ love of the land as well as their deep understanding of crime and family.

Two fun historical mysteries: Murder in Morningside Heights, Victoria Thompson (2016), the 15th or 16th Gaslight Mystery, and Delivering the Truth, Edith Maxwell (2016), the first Quaker Midwife Mystery.

And I’m finally catching up with Deborah Crombie and Jacqueline Winspear, reading several books by each this year, every one a true joy.

A special mention for a short story collection, All the Wrong Places, by Molly Giles (2015). Giles’ stories are smart, funny, with an amazing range and dialogue that makes my writerly heart churn with envy. I met Molly this past summer on a perfect evening on a friend’s deck overlooking the Swan River, and am so happy that I liked the stories as much as I like the woman herself!

What were your favorite reads of the past year? 

What’s on Pepper’s bookshelf in Killing Thyme?

IMGP3441In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, the first Spice Shop mystery, Pepper discovers the joys of the Brother Cadfael mysteries by the late, great Ellis Peters. In later books, she dives into the Dame Frevisse mysteries by Margaret Frazer—one of my very favorites—and the Sister Fidelma mysteries by Peter Tremaine.

In KILLING THYME, just released on October 4, 2016, Pepper’s mother, Lena, visits and introduces her to several newer historical mysteries series. As Lena says, “Now you know why I love historicals. Life could be harsh, and people haven’t changed a whole lot. But reality is easier to take when it’s dressed in period clothing.”

KillingThyme_FC.inddOf course, Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop carries a wide range of cookbooks and food fiction. Readers have asked me for a list of the books Pepper mentions. Here’s Part One.

And here’s what’s on Pepper’s bookshelf in KILLING THYME:

Rhys Bowen, the Molly Murphy Mysteries, including Murphy’s Law and Death of Riley

Victoria Thompson, the Gaslight Mysteries, including Murder on Amsterdam Avenue and Murder in Morningside Heights

Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames, the Cheese Shop Mysteries and the Cookbook Nook Mysteries

World Spice at Home: New Flavors for 75 Favorite Dishes by World Spice Merchants owner Amanda Bevill and Julie Kramis Hearne

Essays by the late novelist and food writer Laurie Colwin and the late food writer MFK Fisher

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War, by Annia Ciezadlo, a tour of Middle Eastern food during the wars in Iraq and Lebanon

Laura Childs, the Teashop Mysteries, Gunpowder Green

Krista Davis, the Domestic Diva Mysteries, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme

Happy reading and eating!