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PEPPERMINT BARKED
by Leslie Budewitz
Seventh Street, July 2022
236 pages
$17.95
ISBN: 1645060543


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Pepper Reece is surprised to learn that one of her employees at Seattle Spice has a sister; when that sister is attacked in another shop in Pike Place Market, Pepper takes it seriously for a number of reasons.

It's the holiday season at Pike Place Market and Pepper Reece is reveling in all the sights, sounds and smells around her. Her shop, Seattle Spice, is doing just fine; her employees get along and work well together. She knows many of the other vendors in the Market. It's a flexible, fluid family of sorts. As in any family, related by blood or not, some people just don't get along with everyone. Usually it's just a matter of avoiding the ones who create a fuss. Pepper gets along pretty well with Vinny Delgado, who runs the Wine Merchant not all that far from Pepper's shop. He has recently hired Beth Yardley, a 20-something woman, to help him in his store. So Pepper is upset when Beth is attacked and left unconscious in Vinny's store. Who would want to hurt her? Or was Vinny the target? Then Pepper learns from one of her employees, Matt Kemp (a very private person), that Beth is his sister. What, if anything, does this have to do with a seemingly random attack? Is the tall man that Pepper saw having a heated discussion with Beth a person of interest? Pepper trusts the local police; she's worked with or around them before. Still, she just can't leave this to them, no matter how competent they are. Her nosiness irritates somebody because she is attacked just outside her warehouse late one night. Then Beth, who has been in a coma, dies. This ups the ante all around. Throw into the mix a visit from Bron, brother to Pepper's love interest Nate; his opinion of Pepper matters to her. There is a lot going on, both on a personal level and a business level. It's a wonder that anyone has a chance to breathe, much less process everything.

Ms. Budewitz is no novice, to either the mystery or cozy genres or to Seattle. This is her sixth Seattle Spice mystery and she has another series going. Her characters have grown since the first book in the series and they were pretty well nuanced to begin with. Pike Place Market is an amazing place (do read the Historical Notes at the end of the book) and the spirit is captured perfectly, even though the author has taken a few liberties with dates and locations. I have no hesitation in recommending at least one of the recipes. I make my own Pumpkin Spice Blend every year and it's MUCH better than anything one can buy. If one enjoys making gifts for friends, the truffles sound marvelous. Plot and story? The story flows smoothly. Reading the notes at the back will give readers a hint as to what to pay attention to when trying to pinpoint the killer. It won't give the whole thing away, just a nudge in the right direction. Seattle doesn't seem to get much snow and it was still a pleasure to read this in August, when the temps here were in the high 80s and the humidity was right up there.

P.J Coldren: I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and two fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, July 2022

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