Narrator: Dara Rosenberg
Series: Spice Shop Mysteries #1
Published by Berkley on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Cozy, Mystery
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
The Agatha Award-winning author of Crime Rib is proud to introduce Pepper Reece, the owner of the Seattle Spice Shop who thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix…
After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars. But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on the store’s doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest one of Pepper’s staffers, Tory Finch, for murder.
Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list…
I tend to read more cozy mysteries this time of year. Something about the changing weather and the lovely foliage just makes me gravitate that way. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, I’ll get into some darker, bloodier mysteries, but for now, this is what I want.
Pepper Reece is just about a year into her new life. Newly divorced and laid off, she bought her favorite spice and tea shop and reinvented herself. Her name is just a coincidence; she hasn’t been obsessed with seasonings her entire life or anything. In the grand tradition of cozy mysteries everywhere, a corpse, bloodless and non-gross, appears on the doorstep of her shop, and one of her employees is arrested for the murder.
There’s a pretty standard cast of characters; The other spice shop employees, the previous owner, the other small business owners on the street of her Seattle shop. And, of course, the ever-present cop/love interest, who in this case is her ex-husband. The ‘love interest’ is just a guess on my part, because though it doesn’t actually go that way in this book, it seems like it’s going to, and I really wish it wouldn’t. Tag is exactly the type of ex that I hate. Because he’s one of the local bicycle cops, he keeps an ear out for anything in Pepper’s general vicinity and immediately inserts himself into everything even remotely involving her. He shows up constantly, whether Pepper wants him there or not, and seems genuinely puzzled that his charming smiles and winks aren’t enough to win her back now that he’s gotten his affair out of his system and realizes he fucked up their marriage. And when they don’t work, he resorts to insulting her and her business and claiming she can’t take care of herself. In other words, he’s an overgrown child.
The mystery itself is standard cozy mystery fare. Pepper decides she needs to investigate because the accused is her employee and Pepper feels there’s just no way Tori could have killed anyone. I thought there was a nice blend of mystery/story, and description of Seattle’s history and the actual spices and teas, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was too much for some people. I like a lot more of that than other readers do. Plus, I love tea, so I enjoyed hearing Pepper’s description of it. The descriptions of the spices made me wish I were a better cook.
The narration by Dana Rosenberg was perfectly… okay. I never had any trouble knowing who was speaking; she was able to change her voice enough for the different characters without actually “doing voices”, if that makes sense. There are only 2 other books in this series so far and it looks like she narrates both of them, but I don’t think I would notice if someone else were doing them. Some narrators become almost as synonymous with the series as the author themselves, but I don’t think this is going to be one of them.
Overall, I liked this. There wasn’t anything revolutionary here; just a standard light cozy mystery, perfect for curling up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of tea.