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:

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