Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Chat with Pepper Reece, the Spice Shop Detective

Pepper Rice was created by author Lesilie Budewitz

Today's guest is Pepper Reece, owner of the Seattle Spice Shop. I'm doing this interview with a cold beer in my hand, to refresh my throat. So, Pepper, how did you start in this detective business? What was your latest investigation, and do you plan to continue doing that kind of work?

One morning, not quite a year ago, I walked through the Pike Place Market to my shop, Seattle Spice, and found the body of a homeless man I knew only as Doc lying on the sidewalk outside my shop. I had no intention of investigating – I was married to a cop for 13 years – but when the homicide detectives arrested one of my employees, well, I just had to get involved. And I’m so glad I did. (For more on that little adventure, see Assault & Pepper, the first Spice Shop mystery.) And then, just a couple of months ago, a woman I’d known when I was a child turned up dead in her pottery studio. I can’t blame the witnesses for letting the detectives know they’d seen her arguing with my own mother. And you can’t blame me for getting involved, can you? (That tale is told in Killing Thyme.)

I suppose I have to admit my first investigation was figuring out what my now-ex husband was up to when I nearly tripped over him and a meter maid (I can’t bring myself to say “parking enforcement officer”) practically plugging each other’s meters in a downtown restaurant on a night when he’d told me he was working late. But we’ll save that sorry story for another time.

What’s your major strength while investigating a murder?

Tenacity. I don’t quit.

What’s your major weakness while investigating a murder?

Tenacity. I don’t quit.

Tell me a little more about that spice shop.

I own and operate Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market. Honestly, when I left my husband, then lost my job as an HR manager in a major Seattle law firm, all within months of turning 40, I did not expect to find solace in bay leaves. Best thing that ever happened to me. So far, my investigations have involved people I’ve known through the shop or the Market, or my friends and family.

 I love spicy food, so I might pay a visit to your shop some day! Is there something you feel you can do better than the police?

Listen. Talk to people who aren’t interested in talking with the police. See connections they don’t see, because they don’t know this community and how people in the Market and in the food business work and think.

Are you a fan of crime novels? What are your favorites?

A year or so ago, I found a stash of Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters in a box my parents stashed in my storage unit when they moved to Costa Rica. Now I am HOOKED. I read other historical mysteries, too, and quite a few culinary mysteries – we even sell them in the Spice Shop. Readers find them as tasty as I do!

Do you watch crime TV show and movies? What are your favorites?

Not much. I ADORE food movies, though!

My favorite food movie are The Stuff and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. But I don't think that's the kind you mean. Who do you see yourself closest to: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Sam Spade?

Brother Cadfael. I often ask myself “What would Cadfael do?”

How do you deal with the authorities while doing your investigation? 

I bite my tongue a lot. Maybe not enough. And feed them coffee cake and cookies.

Would you ever do something against the law to help your investigation? 

Grandma. Seriously. You think I would admit it?

Almost got you there! Thank you for stopping by, now go catch a murderer!


Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series. CHAI ANOTHER DAY, her fourth Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is due on June 11. DEATH AL DENTE, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana. 

More about her books, including excerpts and where to find them, here:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Chat With Olive Peroni, the Cold Cream Detective

Olive Peroni was created by Barbara Silkstone in The Cold Cream Murders

Hello, guys and gals! Sorry for not posting an interview last week, but life sometimes gets on the way. My guest today is a bit of a smartass, but that's a good quality in a detective. Her name is Olive Peroni, a family therapist from New York City who recently moved down to Florida and discovered her grandmother had left her the Peroni family secret recipe for miracle cold cream. 

Welcome to my blog, Olive! Now, tell me, how did you start in this business? What's your most recent investigation, and do you plan to continue doing this in the future?

I morphed into a crime solver within a few days of moving to Starfish Cove, a quiet seaside community located on the west coast of Florida. Hours after meeting Lizzy Kelly my world topsy-turvyed into one astonishment after another. The combination of our energies nudged me to take my foot off the brakes and swerve into the bumper car lane of life.

Speaking of cars, in my first investigation Lizzy and I discovered the thumping noise in her car trunk was not mechanical—it turned out to be a body—one familiar to Lizzy. I fell back on my schooling as a psychologist to unveil the killer, but not before a second person bit the dust in a most unusual manner.

My most recent investigation was the demise of Lizzy’s father. Grams found him dangling by his feet from the chandelier in his penthouse apartment. Grams was determined to solve the case—it was stressful. At ninety-four, she shouldn’t be hot-footing it around like she does.

Book 4 in the series is underway. I’ve had to lock Grams in her room to keep her from helping me. I can hear her now—picking the lock with a bobby pin.

Don't underestimate her, Olive! Old people are full of surprises. And I bet you have your weaknesess too, right?

I can’t stand to get my face wet. Don’t laugh! Imagine tracking down killers while living in a beachside community where people deliberately get their faces wet on purpose—go out on boats—dive in the water. It’s awful!

And what’s your daytime occupation? Does it help your investigations?

When I discovered Nonna left me her secret Italian recipe for miracle cold cream, I went into partnership with Lizzy. It was one of those crazy things that happens before you give it much thought.

We brew and sell miracle creams that help sooth the complexions of ladies who spend too much time in the sun. So far, it’s Lizzy’s eccentric friends and family who have needed investigating.

I'd love to hear more about this Lizzy, and the other people helping you in your investigations.

My new business partner, Lizzy Kelly is my helper. She’s a popular figure in Starfish Cove. Lizzy is like capturing a sunbeam in a bottle. She’s taught me that it’s okay to giggle even while tripping over a body. Lizzy’s pushing thirty, dresses like one of Charlie’s Angels in retro clothes and impossibly high wedgie heels. It was months before I realized she was a good five inches shorter than me.

She adores her rescue pet, WonderDog. The mixed breed hound looks like a child’s crayon drawing of The Big Bad Wolf, with Brillo-pad hair, white whiskers and a hero’s heart. He has saved our lives more than once. WonderDog’s best buddy is my white foundling kitten, Puff.

Grams Dingler, Lizzy’s grandmother, provides unwanted help. She almost always wears colorful
retro outfits with matching orthopedic shoes. Big as minute, she wears a fedora with a note stuck in the hatband that reads—REPORTER. She works for the Silverfish Gazette. The local gossip and coupon newspaper’s slogan is—“Catch the news before it crawls away.”

Would you ever do something against the law to help your investigation?

That’s a rhetorical question—right?

You'd be surpised with the answers I get to that question! Who do you see yourself closest to: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Sam Spade?

I’m a dry land Sam Spade with a smattering of Nancy Drew.

Do you know anything about the psychology of the criminal mind?

Hello… I’m a psychologist.

Duh! And what about the authorities? How do you deal with them while doing your investigation?

Pretend like I’m paying attention. Nod when required. Then do it my own way.

That's how I do it too. I love it when I show them I was right all the time. What gives you the most satisfaction about investigating a case?

When I discover my instincts were right. Also it pleases me to find justice for the victim.

What was the most difficult period in your investigations?

In my second case —Smokey Eyes—I accidently fell clinging to the side of a sailboat. I got my face wet with icky marina water!

That must have been a nightmare for you! Thank you for stopping by, and please see a shrink about that wet face thing. But, in all honesty, I'll make sure to check your cases, they sound like a lot of fun!

See you all next week, with a new interview!


Barbara Silkstone's most current series is COLD CREAM MURDERS ~ GLOSSY LIPS, SMOKEY EYES, and coming soon: SOAP ON A ROPE. This series will have at least 6 books when complete. The adventures take place in the imaginary burg of Starfish Cove, Florida ~ a place near and dear to Silkstone's hometown of Redington Beach on the Gulf of Mexico just north of St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Twitter: @barbsilkstone

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Chat with Brigid Barnes, the Cottonwood Springs Sleuth

Brigid Barnes is the main character of the Cottonwood Springs Cozy Mystery by Dianne Harman

Today's guest has solved a good share of mysteries in her time. I firstly approached Brigid to chat about her last case at the Alamo, thinking of all the old western movies I watched when I was young. Turns out she's not just a great detective, but knows also a dog lover, which makes me like her even more.

So tell us, Brigid, how did you start in this business? What was your latest investigation? Do you expect to continue doing that in the future?
The first investigation I did was just after I moved back to Cottonwood Springs. My closest friend was murdered at her Bed and Breakfast. Her brother was the sheriff and he was too emotional over the murder to investigate, so his deputy asked if I would help.
The last investigation occurred when I was on my honeymoon in San Antonio, Texas. When my husband and I were on a tour of the Alamo, a guard was murdered. I couldn’t help it, I had to find who murdered him. Fortunately, I had some help with a retired K-9 police dog.
Yes, there will definitely be more investigations in my future.

I'm glad, the world needs good investigators. But that doesn't always pay the bills, am I right? What’s your daytime occupation? How does it relate to your investigations?

I’m an editor and I work out of my home, so I have a lot of freedom and can take the time necessary to work on a murder mystery when it occurs.

That's important! And how do you deal with the police and other authorities while investigating? 

I was more or less recruited by a deputy sheriff when my close friend was murdered and my friend’s sister, the sheriff, was unable to unemotionally investigate the case. Because I wasn’t in a uniform or officially part of law enforcement personnel, people opened up to me. The deputy sheriff became the sheriff and often asked me to help him with cases. He also suggested that I take self-defense and other courses pertaining to law enforcement, which I’ve done.

Actually, he and I have become quite good friends.

That's nice. Policemen often can't see subtle details of crime. Sometimes it takes an amateur sleuth to solve it. And how's your investigation style?

I would like to think that I can communicate with people just as an everyday person, not part of law enforcement. People tend to tell me things they wouldn’t tell someone in uniform and I know that helps. The first thing I do is to come up with a list of possible suspects, people who might have wanted or had a reason why the victim should be out of their lives. After that, I do a process of elimination, such as checking alibis, etc. Usually someone will slip up.

They always do, don't they? I have to confess, that's the part of the job that gives me the most satisfaction. What's yours?

Seeing that justice comes to the person who committed a crime. No matter what the crime, someone will be affected adversely by it, and those are the people I like to help.

That's why we do what we do! Thank you for your time, Brigid, and hope you continue kicking butt in your future investigations.


Dianne Harman
Two-time USA Today Bestselling Author and seven time Amazon All Star Author, Dianne Harman, draws her stories and characters from a diverse business and personal background. She owned a national antique and art appraisal business for many years, left that industry, and opened two yoga centers where she taught and certified yoga instructors. She's traveled extensively throughout the world and loves nothing more than cooking, playing backgammon with her husband, Tom, and throwing the ball for their dog, Kelly.

Being a dog lover and having attended numerous cooking schools, she couldn't resist writing about food and dogs. Dianne is the author of several cozy mystery series: Cedar Bay, Liz Lucas, High Desert, Midwest, Jack Trout, Northwest and her latest, Cottonwood Springs. Each of these books contains recipes from her travels. She's also the author of the award-winning suspenseful Coyote Series, Midlife Journey Series, and the Slade Kelly Suspense Series.

Web Site

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Chat with Flo from Silver Hills

Florence 'Flo' Bee was created by author Sam Cheever

Greetings, guys and gals! This is Grandma Bertha with a brand interview with a cozy detective. This time I brought you Flo from Silver Hills, who has solved so many cases it makes me wonder if I'll ever get to her level. Flo loves to talk about her investigations, so I let her did most of the talking in this interview. And of course I had to start with the now classic question:

What was the first investigation you ever did? What was the last? Do you expect to do more investigations in the future?

These are such great questions, hun. Thanks for letting me stop by and visit. I love to talk about my investigations. My initial case actually happened on the first day my friend Agnes Willard moved into Silver Hills Senior and Singles Residence. We’ve since dubbed the case, Flo Charts because it centered around a set of inventory charts for a trucking company. We’d just finished moving all of her stuff into her apartment when Agnes realized her cat, Tolstoy, was missing. We found him sitting on the chest of a neighbor who died soon afterward. We suspected she’d been murdered. That was the beginning of our case and also the start of Tolstoy’s reputation as the Grim Reaper.

My most recent case actually just happened on April 5th and was dubbed, Fowl Campaign. I love naming my investigations, don’t you, hun? In Fowl Campaign, Agnes, who’s known for her ability to debauch crime scenes, which you can imagine makes our friend Detective Brent Peters crazy, definitely outdid herself in crime scene debauchery. The case was a difficult one, involving smarmy politicians, rabid animal rights fanatics, and the stomach-churning possibility of Vladwicke Newsome, our vampire-like night manager at the residence, becoming Silver City’s mayor. But it wasn’t until my sweet dachshund Rodney was threatened because of my investigation, that I realized how dangerous the case was becoming.

As to your last question, I’ve started my own investigative service due to demands for my help. I get a little flack for acting like PoPoat my age (don’t ask so I don’t have to lie) but I don’t care. As a retired substitute teacher, I’m able to utilize my intelligence, understanding of human nature, and a drive to get to the bottom of things (Detective Peters would call it nosiness but I’m ignoring him.) to solve any cases that find their way to me. I love the feeling of helping my friends and solving puzzles. Don’t you, hun?

Yes, I do! It's a lot of fun, and you get to do some good. I love it that you opened your own agency, this is something I want to do in the future too. As you said, the knowledge of human nature can make or break a case, even more than collecting fingerprints and doing tests on blood samples. Now tell me: what can you do that the police can't?

Because I’m part of the community rather than an authority figure, people talk to me, telling me things they might not tell the police. There’s a fear factor when dealing with the police, do you know what I mean, hun? But I’m a mature lady with a mighty fine bouff. I’m totally non-threatening. In fact, my biggest problem as a sleuth is dealing with people I speak to trying to protect me from the criminal I’m pursuing.

Plus, in a small community like Silver City, I usually know all the players in a case. This insider status is both good…for gaining access…and bad because if you know people too well it can be hard to recognize when they’re lying. That’s probably one of my biggest challenges.

I agree it can be hard to see the evil side of people we know too well. We need to keep a distance, and that's easier said than done. What about sidekicks to help you in your investigations? Do you have any? Tell us more about them.

I have three other ladies who usually help me, along with my sweet and handsome Roger Attles, a retired lawyer living at Silver Hills. We call ourselves Flo and Co. Agnes Willard is my main sidekick. She’s both an asset and a liability in any given situation. As I mentioned before, Agnes tends, to put it kindly, to “intrude” on crime scenes. And since our pretty young friend TC is trying to have a relationship with Detective Peters, Agnes’s “help” causes a lot of friction within the group. Celia Angonetti is married to a small time mobster but lives alone at Silver Hills. A strange situation that I suspect is a protective measure for Ce. When PoPo takes a look at Mass, Ce isn’t suspected because she’s “estranged”. Mass Angonetti’s contacts often come in handy during my cases, as does Richard’s knowledge of the law and his ability to pay off all of Agnes’s “victims”, such as the guy in the next alley she somehow managed to maim with an errant bowling ball in Fowl Campaign. Do you have any friends like that, hun? You love them but some days they’re just a lot of work.

My daughter-in-law Lydia is just like that. At times she's helpful, but others she can be a pain in the neck. But if it wasn't for her, I would have never solved the case of The Convenient Cadaver. It wasn't easy convincing her I could do it. What was the most difficult period in your investigation, and how did you deal with it?

After our Vlad-Handing investigation, my friend TC told me she didn’t want to be involved in any more of my little “intrigues”. Her reaction was partly the result of tension between her and the handsome detective, and partly because Agnes and I left her trapped in a ventilation system while we did the intellectual two-step trying to stay ahead of a killer. This was after she promised the detective we wouldn’t “go in” but would stay on the perimeter, watch and assess. I understood her stance and I did apologize, but she distanced herself from us for several weeks and it nearly broke my heart.

Trapped in a ventilation system? That's a new one. Tell me more about your investigation style.

I use my network at Silver Hills to get a feel for the players in any case. Then I figure out which ones might benefit from the crime in question. I talk to each suspect about the crime, reading between the lines as they answer my questions. A lot of investigating is instinct. I tell Detective Peters I’m developing an investigator’s gut but he just laughs at me. I know I’ve only been at this for a short time, but I’ve talked enough to the police and faced enough challenges in my work to make me a decent investigator. I don’t care what Detective Peters says. He doesn’t respect my work and that’s okay. I get results and that’s what matters. Though I suspect a lot of his push back has to do with him trying to protect TC.  

That's it for today! Thank you for dropping by, Flo, this was a wonderful interview. Keep in touch, and let me know if you need any help in your next investigation. That's what detective friends are for, after all. 


USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes mystery and suspense, creating stories that draw you in and keep you eagerly turning pages. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 80+ books.