To Err Is Cumin

spice shop mysteries

A Spice Shop Mystery, #8
Seventh St. Books: July 16, 2024
In trade paperback, ebook, and audio!
ISBN: 978-1645060857

Available at:
Barnes & Noble
And your local booksellers!

From the cover
One person’s treasure is another’s trash. . .

Pepper Reece, owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, wants nothing more than to live a quiet life for a change, running her shop and working with customers eager to spice up their cooking. But when she finds an envelope stuffed with cash in a ratty old wingback left on the curb, she sets out to track down the owner.

Pepper soon concludes that the chair and its stash may belong to young Talia Cook, new in town and nowhere to be seen. Boz Bosworth, an unemployed chef Pepper’s tangled with in the past, shows up looking for the young woman, but Pepper refuses to help him search. When Boz is found floating in the Ship Canal, only a few blocks from Talia’s apartment, free furniture no longer seems like such a bargain.

On the hunt for Talia, Pepper discovers a web of connections threatening to ensnare her best customer. The more she probes, the harder it gets to tell who’s part of an unsavory scheme of corruption—and who might be the next victim.

Between her quest for an elusive herb, helping her parents remodel their new house, and setting up the Spice Shop’s first cooking class, Pepper’s got a full plate. Dogged by a sense of obligation to find the rightful owner of the hidden treasure, she keeps on showing up and asking questions.

One mistake, and she could find herself cashing out. . .


“Fans of the “Spice Shop” cozy mystery series will enjoy the return of favorite characters, and the spices, food, and flowers that are a treat for the senses.” — Lesa Holstine, Library Journal



In 1991, a group of scientists gathered in a bar in Seattle’s Fremont district  declared that since no one could prove otherwise, the neighborhood was the Center of the Universe, and erected a guidepost establishing that fact. The King County Council has since made it official.

“You can’t call an Uber for a wingback,” I told Laurel.

“Why not?” she said. The chair in question slumped on the sidewalk outside a three-story apartment building in Seattle’s funky Fremont district, the autumn-floral upholstery tattered, one wooden leg askew. “Ask for a truck or a van.”

“Guaranteed they’ll send a Prius with a trunk that wouldn’t hold a week’s worth of groceries.” I glanced at my own car, a black Saab with enough miles to have circumnavigated the planet a couple of dozen times and the dents to prove it. And a roomy trunk, but not that roomy.

I handed Laurel Arf’s leash and dug for my phone. “No. I know who to call.”

This was a moment made for a best friend who drives a rig big enough to haul two teenagers, their friends, schoolbooks, sports gear, and science projects with room left for a stray chair. At ten thirty on a Sunday morning, I could almost guarantee that Kristen’s girls would be sound asleep, her husband would be out for a run, and she’d be delighted to help us rescue the wingback. Any luck, she’d let me stash it in her garage. No room to spare in my downtown loft, even without my honey around.

I found the phone and made the call. Not unusual to see old furniture put out for the taking, especially in Fremont, an area thick with apartments. A lot of coming and going. Pickings are best in university neighborhoods at the end of the semester, but never look a gift chair in the mouth. This one had good bones—just add stuffing and upholstery for a whole new look. And fix that wonky leg.

“She says twenty minutes, unless the bridge is up.” I dropped my phone in my jute tote and stashed the bag in my car. “Wonder what else is here?”

Laurel sat in the chair, and the dog sat on the sidewalk beside her. A stack of cardboard boxes stood beside the big trash can, put out a day too soon. I popped the flaps on the first box and waved away a puff of dust that threatened to make me sneeze.

“Kinda lumpy,” she said, her long, gray-brown curls bouncing as she squirmed. “Needs a new cushion. Do you even know how to reupholster furniture? You’re not still on that ‘I need a hobby’ kick, are you?”

“No, and no. But it can’t be hard. There’s got to be a million YouTube videos. It will be perfect for my parents’ house.” As the owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I was much too busy for a new project. Tourist season loomed. We were training new employees and expanding our production and shipping operation. Plus I’d agreed to oversee the remodel of the house my parents had bought when they visited over Christmas. They were planning to return from Costa Rica on May 1, not three weeks away, and the to-do list was long.

But when you hook up with a commercial fisherman, as I had, there are a lot of lonely hours at night and on weekends. And until Nate safely returned to land, a hint of worry hovered in the back of my mind much of the day. A project might help.

The box held a set of melamine dishes that were popular fifty years ago, white with a green floral pattern around the rim. Much as I love vintage, they didn’t qualify.

A cluster of people approached, the adults carrying shopping bags, no doubt coming from the Fremont Sunday Market. Laurel and I meet for brunch almost every Sunday morning, and today we’d braved the crowds to see what was new at the first outdoor market of the year. Happily, the day was dry, though the sun had not appeared, and we hadn’t needed the rain jackets stuffed in our bags. Part craft fair, part garage sale, part costume party, punctuated by a few farm stands, the Sunday Market is a long tradition in this, one of Seattle’s funkiest and most creative neighborhoods. We weren’t far from the colorful signpost marking Fremont the center of the universe and helpfully pointing the way to local landmarks: the Troll, a twenty-foot-high concrete sculpture that lives under the Aurora Avenue Bridge, a red Volkswagen bug clenched in one meaty hand. The topiary dinosaurs who once roamed the Pacific Science Center. Rapunzel, a neon sculpture inside the window of a control tower on the Fremont drawbridge.

And for the seriously misplaced, or those who’d eaten too much and wanted to walk it off, Rio de Janeiro and the North Pole.

“Great chair,” a woman said. “You taking it?”

“Yeah.” I waved at the boxes. “But help yourself to the rest.”

She and another woman began rummaging. A girl of about ten held a black Lab’s leash. My Airedale and the lab studied each other.

“This is Arf,” I told the girl. “He’s very friendly. What’s your dog’s name?”

“Swisher,” she said, and the dog’s tail swished back and forth. I smiled.

“Could your brother use these dishes?” the first woman asked her friend. “Now that he’s on his own again?”

“What are you doing?” An angry male voice interrupted the conversation, and we all turned toward a scruffy white man in a tie-dye T-shirt and denim cargo shorts. His fury was aimed at Laurel and the chair. “What is that chair doing out here?”

“Yours?” If she was rattled, you couldn’t tell.

“No, but what’s it doing out here?”

“For the trash or the taking, obviously,” I said. Where had I seen him before? That’s the side effect of having lived in Seattle all my life and working retail in a busy place like Pike Place Market. I’d seen a lot of faces in my forty-three years.

“Where’s Talia?” he barked. “Are all these boxes hers? Why are they out here?”

“Who’s Talia?” I replied. He threw me an exasperated look and stomped up the sidewalk to the front of the building. A couple emerged and he grabbed the door, almost smacking into them in his rush to get inside.

The woman holding the box of dishes gave me a questioning look.

“Stuff’s on the curb. Might as well take it,” I said.

“We’ll put them to good use. Cute hair, by the way.”

Reflexively my hand went to my head, my fingers raking my short, spiky hair. I hoped she didn’t see the gray creeping in at the dark roots. I hadn’t decided what to do about that.

“Thanks,” I said. A horn honked. Kristen had made great time. No open spaces, so she double-parked and hopped out.

“Great find,” she said, eyeing the chair as she raised the back door of her white Suburban. Laurel stood, and we boosted the chair into the rig. A man from the group of market goers had stepped toward us, offering to help, but we didn’t need it.

I was slapping the dust off my hands when the man in the tie-dye shirt burst out of the building and charged toward us.

“She’s gone! Talia is gone!”

And a moment later, so were we.

available at

Barnes & Noble
And your local booksellers!