Guilty as Cinnamon
A Spice Shop Mystery #2
By Leslie Budewitz
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.
Springtime in Seattle’s Pike Place Market means tasty foods and wide-eyed tourists, and Pepper’s Spice Shop is ready for the crowds. With flavorful combinations and a fresh approach, she’s sure to win over the public. Even better, she’s working with several local restaurants as their chief herb and spice supplier. Business is cooking, until one of Pepper’s potential clients, a young chef named Tamara Langston, is found dead, her life extinguished by the dangerously hot ghost chili—a spice Pepper carries in her shop.
Now stuck in the middle of a heated police investigation, Pepper must use all her senses to find out who wanted to keep Tamara’s new café from opening—before someone else gets burned… (from Goodreads)
Witty and at times intense, this special group of friends and wickedly plotted mystery are characteristics that Leslie Budewitz demonstrates in abundance in ‘Guilty as Cinnamon’. The second in A Spice Shop Mystery series, one could read it as a standalone and enjoy the characters and shop as the background is provided. The author’s love for the Seattle Marketplace, cozy mysteries, cooking, and spices comes through every page. The first thing I absolutely appreciated was the cast of characters in the beginning of the book; it is a huge plus for the new and returning reader.
Pepper has owned the Spice Shop in the Marketplace for 1 ½ years after purchasing it from the original owner, and her success is evident in the Marketplace relationships she enjoys and the customers who return with new customers in tow. If only it were as easy to hire, and keep, the best staff for the long haul! For it is a staff member, fired after her rude response to one customer, and divulging privileged information about his own staff to a restauranteur, that begins a steady tumbling of dominoes of deadly results.
Tamara is a top-notch young chef who is going places that her current employer, Alex Howard, wouldn’t want her to. She obtained a financial partner with an even wider local restaurant presence than Alex and planned to open her own restaurant. Tamara visited the Spice Shop to consider Pepper’s selection and pricing as a local spice and herb source, she simply hadn’t been ready yet to leave Alex’s restaurant, the First Avenue Cafe. When Alex learned from Pepper’s employee about Tamara’s plans, his characteristic temper exploded and he fired her – loudly and with threats – in front of the kitchen staff. A day later, Pepper was on her way to meet close friend Laurel for dinner and stepped into the storefront Tamara was preparing for her future. She found Tamara, who was unfortunately very dead…and no obvious cause of death. Charged in the death was Alex Howard, who pleaded with Pepper to find the real killer, who began to go to any lengths to stop her.
Pepper, her BFF/staff member Kristen, and Laurel are the kind of friends that most of us would want. They are very well defined as can be seen through their conversations, actions, and for Pepper, her thought processes that we are delightfully privy to. We see their loyalty to each other and how much they care for each other by their concern for and honesty with each other. Pepper is a hard-working woman who can still take time to walk Arf, the lovable Airedale given to her by a friend who moved away, and enjoy off-hours with her friends. She is the epitome of today’s divorced yet not bitter woman who is secure enough in who she is to not feel the need to flirt with any man who comes along and genuinely enjoys time with her female friends.
The plot is rich with as many twists and turns as the alleys in the Marketplace, one that kept this reader revising her suspect list with each new twist. It is not a fast read, as one learns about spices and their uses, Seattle, and specifically the Marketplace while watching the scenes unfold. This reader was completely stumped as it seemed that nearly every suspect was eliminated for one reason or another. The author has flawlessly executed a plot that had many twists and interrelationships I could not have anticipated. The main characters have a depth this reader also would not have anticipated in a relatively young series; I can’t wait for the next one to see how much better it will get! I highly recommend ‘Guilty as Cinnamon’ to foodies who enjoy exploring new tastes and ideas (with many recipes included), cozy mystery lovers who appreciate an exceptionally well-plotted and written novel, and those who enjoy the Pacific Northwest area.