The Real Jewel Bay — summer in bloom


So it’s winter in the village in BUTTER OFF DEAD, but high summer right now. And I’d much rather share pictures of posies than snow piles!

Left: Arrowleaf Balsamroot, one of my favorite wildflowers. Other faves: Indian paintbrush and wild pink spirea, so brave it grows on the upper slopes of the Continental Divide, right behind our house.

clematis 3 clematis 2


Clematis “Etoile Violette.” We trained it up an old bamboo rake staked to the side of the garage.




Echinacea, aka cone flower. It’s spread like mad in our woodland garden and we love it!

IMGP1939And sedum “Autumn Joy,” over the grave of our much-loved orange tabby, a sweet girl who showed up one fall and so, was named “Autumn.” She inspired Pumpkin, the new cat in BUTTER OFF DEAD.

Butter Off Dead (final)


BUTTER OFF DEAD, third in the Agatha-Award winning Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, out now.



The Real Jewel Bay — a touch of winter

deer heart

Here in the northwest, we’re breaking records for heat — highs over 100 would be rare in August, let alone in late June and early July. No matter where you are, what better way to cool down than with a mystery set in February — BUTTER OFF DEAD, out next Tuesday, July 7 — and a few photos of deep midwinter?

IMGP2137“Deer Heart” — a young doe’s hoof print, captured on my walk out for the Sunday newspaper.

TIMGP2110he weather vane pig on our front porch rail dressed for the season — and doesn’t the village Christmas tree look festive? (The blue spruce had grown too tall for the power lines, but its owners, dear friends of ours, donated it to the village — and the power company cut and delivered!)


The Real Jewel Bay — out and about

IMGP1961Continuing my occasional series of photos of the people and places who’ve inspired my stories. Summer sights around western Montana — even though the about-to-be-launched book is set mid-winter!

Barrows full of flowers, on the East Shore of Flathead Lake!





A fence made of river rock and bottles in Missoula. Love how the blue sake bottles look like a flowing river!




And the heron welded of car parts at Woods Bay, on the East Shore, that never fails to make me ooh and aah—and my husband never fails to tell me “take a welding class, honey!”


The Real Jewel Bay — the Jewel Inn and the Steps

IMGP2978Creating a town based in part on the gem where I live has been a lot of fun. For the most part, I’ve moved things around to create my own vision, and to meet the story’s needs. My friends and neighbors tell me they have a lot of fun seeing what I’ve done, and guessing which businesses and locals I had in mind.

But a few landmark features I’ve left in, though with some changes to fit the story. One is the Jewel Inn, run by Tony and Mimi George. The merchants’ association meets there, under the watchful eyes of a stuffed moose and a trophy antelope. The real Inn does have a few mounts, but those particular heads are ones I’ve added. In CRIME RIB, second in my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Drew Baker is head chef. And in BUTTER OFF DEAD, third in the series (out July 7), we meet the Georges’ daughter Zayda and attend a gala dinner party at the Inn.




My Jewel Inn is loosely based on the Bigfork Inn, owned by Bob and Suzie Keenan, which has its own colorful history that I’ll let you check out for yourself. The Inn’s presided over the north end of the village—the original townsite—for decades. The WPA-built steps next to it lead up the hill to the schools and a residential area. I hope it continues to thrive—in life and on the page—for many more years.



BUTTER OFF DEAD, out July 7, available for pre-order now.

(pictures by Leslie)

The Real Jewel Bay

Bay & Bridge

Jewel Bay, Montana, home of my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, is a place of the heart. But it’s modeled on a real village in NW Montana, with bits and pieces drawn from other communities around the NW and the western provinces of Canada. My friends and neighbors tell me they like seeing what I’ve done to the place, figuring out what buildings I’ve moved, what businesses and people I’ve used as models. And even if you don’t have a clue what communities I have in mind—or care—I hope you’ll enjoy taking in the scenery with me, on the next several Thursdays. This scene is the one-lane bridge into town, built shortly after 1900 when the dam and electric plant (behind where I’m standing to take the picture) were built.