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In Jewel Bay, Montana’s Christmas Village, all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, aka the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

The Big Thrill caught up with Agatha-Award winning author Leslie Budewitz to discuss her latest mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

As with all the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Cookie is #5), I hope to take readers on a trip to a surprising village, and give them a view of Montana that is as realistic as it is unexpected. Along with our big mountains and big skies, we’ve got fabulous art, music, and food — and characters to match. Small-town life is not all charm, of course, but ultimately the cozy is about community, and I hope I’ve given readers a reminder of what is possible in this world.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

In my view, the modern mystery — including the cozy — is the perfect delivery system for the combination of plot, setting, and character, with a touch of social justice, that the modern reader craves, and I hope to deliver.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Too many to count, of course, but I want to give a shout-out to Diane Mott Davidson, who popularized the “culinary cozy.” She showed that food and crime really do go together. More than that, though, she showed that the cozy is big enough to tackle tough subjects, including social issues like domestic violence and hunger in her books. That inspires me in this series, and my Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, and I’ve discovered that if handled well, it inspires readers, too.


Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries and the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana. Death al Dente won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. She served as 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime.

To learn more about Leslie, please visit her website.