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Just a pinch of murder…

When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent – for solving murder.

In the 7th installment, Between a Wok and a Dead Place, Pepper investigates when a friend discovers a body in a boarded-up building in the Chinatown-International District and believes she’s being haunted by the ghost of Bruce Lee. As the clues pile up, it’s clear that someone’s fortunes are about to change.

“BETWEEN A WOK AND A DEAD PLACE is the most tantalizing Spice Shop mystery yet!” — Maddie Day, Agatha Award-winning author of historical and cozy mysteries

“BETWEEN A WOK AND A DEAD PLACE is an exciting mystery blended with great food, delicious spices, and fascinating details about the early Asian residents of Seattle, making this the perfect book for readers of all tastes, spicy or not. A fitting entry in one of the best cozy series being written today.” — Vicki Delany, bestselling author of the Tea by the Sea and Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mysteries

“Leslie Budewitz delivers the goods again in her latest captivating cozy BETWEEN A WOK AND A DEAD PLACE. A twisty-turny plot, seasoned just right with plentiful suspects and lots of culinary delights, this is one page turner of a mystery no reader should miss!” –Jenn McKinlay, NYT Bestselling author

Leslie Budewitz recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, BETWEEN A WOK AND A DEAD PLACE.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
In 2016, my husband and I visited the Wing Luke, the museum focused on the art, culture, and history of the Asian community in the Pacific Northwest, in Seattle. As we walked through a historic residential hotel, and later when we visited the display devoted to Bruce Lee, I realized this would be the perfect secondary setting for a Spice Shop mystery. The focus on the Lunar New Year was a natural. I created my own fictional closed hotel, with a secret in the basement, drawing on that museum visit and other historic references, as well as my love of the city of Seattle.

Leslie Budewitz

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
The Spice Shop mysteries are first and foremost fun. But they also bring together so many things I love in a book: a strong female protagonist, an interesting group of friends and family, a fascinating setting, social issues, and great food. I knew using Seattle’s Chinatown-International District as a secondary setting, in addition to the main setting in Pike Place Market, would be a challenge, but I love exploring Seattle’s neighborhoods and taking readers there. I am always interested in what drives characters to take action, especially to kill and to cover it up, and I loved discovering the multiple layers of this story and its people and places.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
Every Bruce Lee movie! And a bit of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well. Books? The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
I wanted to create a character who loves Seattle and Pike Place Market as much as I do, and who would enable me to explore issues of identity — in my mind, the true heroine’s journey — along with legal and social justice, an intriguing place in a city I love, and food and flavor. Pepper embodies the cliche that life begins at forty, forging herself — as the late Bruce Lee put it — in the fire of her own will, discovering that we do not find ourselves so much as we create ourselves through our actions and our choices.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
A feeling that they’ve gone back in time a bit, learning about the history of the Asian community, particularly the Chinese community, in the US. And a new favorite recipe!

What can you share about what you’re working on next?
The 8th Spice Shop mystery, slated for July 2024 and tentatively titled To Err is Cumin, takes Pepper into one of the city’s funkiest and most creative neighborhoods. When a woman goes missing, leaving behind a load of questions, a chair cushion full of cash, and a dead body, Pepper’s got to use every ounce of her own creativity to follow the trail and find answers, before another body surfaces.


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. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense, beginning with BITTERROOT LAKE and continuing with BLIND FAITH (October 2022). A three-time Agatha-Award winner (for Best Nonfiction, Best First Novel, and Best Short Story), she is a past president of Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America. She lives in NW Montana.

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.

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