The Solace of the Bay Leaves is a cozy mystery with a modern feel that gently pushes against the genre’s conventions.
The main character, Pepper Reece, is the mistress of Spice and runs The Seattle Spice Shop is Seattle’s famous Pike Place. She dropped out of college, divorced her husband, and lost her dream job in the HR Department at a local law firm. But she bounced back, and that’s what makes her so relatable and an enjoyable character to follow through mystery after mystery. She didn’t let all the bad things get her down. Instead, she rebounds every time and ends up in a situation that is bigger and better. She now owns the spice store and enjoys spending her free time with her boyfriend and her dog, Arf. She also has a knack for solving mysteries.
I enjoyed the two different mysteries that only Pepper can solve. One is related directly to her spice store – it seems that another chef stole the unique spice blend that Pepper made for a loyal customer, and that customer wants to know how that happened. Then, there is a bigger, more serious mystery of who shot Pepper’s childhood friend, Maddie. The two mysteries are not related, but one stays within the setting’s bounds, and one goes beyond. The one that goes beyond gently pushes at the conventions that make up the cozy mystery genre, and I enjoyed that very much.
I also appreciated that even though it seems very cutesy that someone named Pepper owns a spice shop, the story is not cutesy at all. It falls somewhere in between a cozy and a hard-boiled mystery in that regard. It’s a coincidence that her nickname is related to her career.
The story has a subtle theme of immigration and the American Dream running through the plot in an intricately layered and natural way to the tale. Never preachy, it sheds a modest light on the issue in day to day life.
If you would like to try a more modern approach to the cozy mystery, then The Solace of Bay Leaves is a book you will be happy you picked up.
Goodreads’ Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
About the Book
Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves.
But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface . . .
Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.
Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.
About the Author
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series, the Spice Shop Mysteries, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in NW Montana. Leslie is the winner of three Agatha Awards—2013 Best First Novel for DEATH AL DENTE, the first Food Lovers’ Village mystery; 2011 Best Nonfiction, and 2018 Best Short Story, for “All God’s Sparrows,” her first historical fiction. Her work has also won or been nominated for Derringer, Anthony, and Macavity awards. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.