For Book Clubs

for book clubs

In more than fifteen years of belonging to a local book club, I quickly came to relish those evenings with friends who love books as much as I do, good food—often planned around the book, and a little wine. I’ve kept those evenings in mind as I dreamed up a few questions to help you start a lively discussion.

DEATH AL DENTE (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book One): 

1. Erin is surprised to discover the ways that Jewel Bay changed while she was away. Have you gone “home again,” to visit or live in the town where you grew up? What changes caught you off guard? What stayed the same, to your delight or your bafflement?

2. Jewel Bay is not what people expect in a small Montana town. What struck you about the town? What most surprises visitors to your community?

3. Ever been involved in a family business? Are the challenges Erin and Fresca face typical? And what about Ted’s efforts to impress Old Ned?

4. Ah, the mother-daughter relationship. Discuss!

5. Erin is determined to remake a struggling business to fit modern times. What businesses have you seen successfully meet that challenge?

6. Paulette is one of those people with a million passions and no focus. What advice would you have given her?

7. A family recipe provides a clue that helps clear Fresca from suspicion. Does your family have its own cache of recipes? Have you added a secret ingredient to any popular recipes?

8. Old buildings like the Merc—built in 1910—can be maddening and charming. What are your experiences with old buildings, for business or home?

9. Erin is surprised that Kim chose to become a deputy sheriff, rather than follow her childhood dream of working with horses. What were your childhood dreams? Do you have friends whose career choices particularly surprise you?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

CRIME RIB (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book Two): 

1. Erin and Kim seem to be rebuilding their friendship, in part with weekly horse rides. What shared activities help you keep your friendships alive—besides discussing books and testing the recipes?

2. Do you share your recipes? Ever asked for a recipe and been refused? (I have, so I invented my own version—and we liked it better!)

3. Poor Gib, still trying to live up to his father’s expectations. What would you tell him?

4. Erin and Stacia instantly hit it off. Have you ever met someone you knew right away would be a friend for life? What happened?

5. In her determination to investigate her friend’s death, Erin sometimes ignores locked doors; she gets results, so Ike Hoover looks the other way. Is that acceptable behavior in an amateur sleuth, or do you think she crossed the line?

6. Erin and Amber have a surprise encounter with the local wildlife. Have you ever run into a wild animal unexpectedly? Who was more startled—you, or the critter?

7. In NW Montana, huckleberries and morels are so prized that recreational foragers often refuse to tell their friends where there patch is. Are there any similarly prized wild foods in your region?

8. Erin and Tara both live in cabins, but that’s where the similarity ends. Which woman’s log home would you choose?

9. Do you have a favorite TV chef or cooking show?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

BUTTER OFF DEAD (Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Book Three): 

1. Erin and Kim’s friendship is a big part of this series. In BUTTER, Erin finally learns the real reasons for the tension between them. Did the source of tension surprise you? Did it seem realistic? Did the resolution satisfy you?

2. Erin and Christine create the film festival to stir up a little mid-winter fun, choosing movies to appeal to food lovers and film lovers alike. Do you have a favorite food-related movie? Is there a food-related scene from a movie that sticks in your memory and always makes you laugh—or cry, or get hungry? Have you ever been inspired to recreate a dish you’ve seen in a movie?

3. A theme of BUTTER is the drive to collect, and when collections become obsessions. Do you have the collector gene? What’s the oddest collection you’ve seen? The most intriguing? The thing you tossed years ago that you now wish you’d saved?

4. It’s often said of small towns that everyone knows everything about everyone else. Erin certainly thought so, until her father’s death. Now, she sees that it’s a myth. Have you had a similar realization in your community, your family, your circle?

5. Tom Murphy’s unsolved death has haunted his family—and the community—for years. Did the resolution surprise you? What does the incident say about perception, misunderstanding, and grief?

6. Erin works closely with her mother. Have you been involved in a family business? Do the Murphys mirror the joys and challenges you’ve observed?

7. In any amateur sleuth novel, the main character needs a good reason to digress from her own life to investigate the crime. Are Erin’s reasons for investigating credible? She likes to think she has access to info that the sheriff’s deputies don’t have. Is she right?

8. At thirty-two, Erin’s ready to “settle down”—and of course, Fresca and Chiara are urging her on. Do you think she chose the right man?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. Have you ever added a second pet to the household? How did it go?

ASSAULT AND PEPPER (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book One):

1. Pepper calls herself a poster child for the “life begins at 40″ cliche. Do you know people like that, especially women?

2. Pepper has a complicated relationship with her former husband, whom she sees regularly in the Market. Have you witnessed a similar dynamic in formerly-marrieds?

3. When Pepper bought the Spice Shop, Sandra was unsure about this new boss, who had no experience in retail, spice, or the food biz. How would you advise her on getting along with her new employer?

4. Tory’s father wanted to protect her from a decision he thought unwise, and caused a rift instead. Have you faced a similar struggle with your own children, or your parents?

5. Zak and Tory hide their relationship from Pepper, worried that she’ll fire one of them. What’s your observation of workplace romances?

6. Have you been to Seattle’s Pike Place Market? Most memorable food? Most memorable sight?

7. Pepper says there’s a constant debate over whether offering goods and services to the street people, homeless or not, helps them, encourages dependency, or even encourages begging. What do you think?

8. Arf is an Airedale. Have you ever known an Airedale, or their relatives, Welsh terriers?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

GUILTY AS CINNAMON (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Two):

1. Pepper kicks herself for hiring a woman she didn’t feel quite right about, realizing too late that it’s those “desperation hires” that, as she says, “bite you in the bittersweet.” Have you observed that, as an employer or a co-worker? What happened?

2. Pepper’s astonished to learn the history between Tag and Detective Tracy. Have you ever picked up on tension between two people, without knowing what it was? How did you deal with the situation? What do you think of the way Pepper handled it?

3. What character did you like most, and why?

4. What’s your opinion of the little lady Pepper met?

5. Historic buildings can be as maddening and frustrating as they are charming and intriguing. Have you ever lived or worked in a historic building? Best part, worst part?

6. Ghost chiles: yes or no?

7. Danielle tells Pepper that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Pepper agrees, but letting the past go can be easier said than done. Did Danielle do the right thing?

8. Were you surprised to discover Tamara’s history and the circumstances that sent her underground? Did it surprise you that Alex gave her so much support?

9. A customer says she associates cinnamon with fall, though Pepper says it’s a spice for all seasons. What are some of your favorite uses for cinnamon?

10. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

11. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

KILLING THYME  (Spice Shop Mysteries, Book Three)

1. Pepper’s had her challenges hiring staff for the Spice Shop, but she’s back to a full crew now. Do Matt and Cayenne seem like good additions?

2. Lena, Pepper’s mother, makes her first appearance in the series in KILLING THYME. Oh, mothers and daughters! Discuss.

3. Lena says of Bonnie, once called Peggy, that she craves home and community, but repeatedly makes choices that keep her from getting what says she wants. Do you know anyone like that?

4. In this book, Pepper experiences tensions with both Kristen, her life-long best friend, and Sandra, her key employee. Do you think she handles them well?

5. Mr. Adams is both sweet and crotchety, pained by some changes in his neighborhood and pleased with others. How has your neighborhood changed, and how do you feel about those changes?

6. Pepper’s new bridal registry could give the Spice Shop’s bottom line a nice boost. But at what cost? Discuss weddings and the Bridezilla-Momzilla phenomenon! What’s the most unusual wedding gift you received?

7. Pepper’s relationship with Tag reaches an unexpected place of peace in this book. Should they get back together, or not?

8. Do you have a favorite use for thyme?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

***

I’d love to join any group for a discussion of my books by speaker phone or Skype. Anywhere in Montana, I’ll come in person.

If you’d like bookmarks to share with your book club, library, or friends, drop me a line at leslie at lesliebudewitz dot com with your mailing address. (US and Canada only, please!)