Christmas is Always in Season

Jul 13, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Leslie Budewitz

On the hot days of summer, it’s a treat to cool off with a nice glass of iced tea or an icy cold-brew coffee—just finished one myself, thanks. A good friend watches Christmas movies—nothing like White Christmas or The Polar Express to lower the temperature a few degrees.

And some readers cool down with a Christmas mystery. I’ve written two Christmas books now—Peppermint Barked, the sixth Spice Shop mystery set in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market (out July 19) and As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles, the fifth Food Lovers’ Village mystery set in fictional Jewel Bay, Montana. I absolutely adore writing Christmas books; they are just inherently fun, even though there is, of course, murder and mayhem. And Christmas cookies and other tasty holiday recipes!

By coincidence, both were written in late spring and summer. Mr. Right loved that I was testing Christmas recipes in summer—all those yummy cookies he would otherwise only get once a year! It’s not typically super hot here in Montana in July, so I don’t mind turning on the oven occasionally. But elsewhere? I know that’s no treat, so I’m always careful to include a few no-bake treats, like Double Chocolate Peppermint Bark and Festive Chocolate Truffles.

Leslie Budewitz

We do associate some flavors with certain seasons. Few people crave watermelon in December, and I doubt the local coffee shop gets many requests for peppermint mochas in July. But last summer, in a rare streak of 90-degree June days, I taste-tested recipes for a DIY peppermint mocha. For you, dear readers, all for you! (The whipped cream on top made it worth it!)

Writing and recipe testing off-season does have a downside. It’s hard enough to keep the days of the week straight, and for writers, the mismatch between real-life and life on the page can turn things completely topsy-turvy. I have worked all day, certain it was Wednesday, only to discover that it was Friday. Once again, I’d been fooled by life on the page. My friend, romance writer BJ Daniels, tells of getting so caught up in writing a winter scene that when she finished for the day and got ready to walk home from her office, she reached for her coat—only to discover she hadn’t worn one on that mid-summer day.

So, if you drop by my house any time soon, you’ll forgive me for offering you a Chocolate Peppermint Bar or a Candy Cane Cookie, won’t you? Sure you will. Because the true spirit of the season is in our hearts, no matter the date on the calendar.

Peppermint Barked by Leslie Budewitz

A Dickens of a Christmas turns deadly… As the holiday season lights up Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece’s beloved Spice Shop is brimming with cinnamon, nutmeg, and shoppers eager to stuff their stockings. Add to the mix a tasty staff competition—a peppermint bark-off—along with Victorian costumes for this year’s Dickensian Christmas theme, and Pepper almost forgets to be nervous about meeting her fisherman boyfriend’s brother for the first time.

But when a young woman working in her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally assaulted, costumed revelers and holiday cheer are the last things on Pepper’s mind. Who would want to hurt Beth? Or were they looking for Vinny instead?

The vicious attack upsets everyone at Pike Place, but none more than Pepper’s own employee, Matt Kemp. At first, Pepper is baffled by his reaction, but his clandestine connection to Beth could hold the key to the assailant’s motive. Or perhaps it’s Vinny’s ex-wife who knows more than she’s letting on…and what about the mysterious top-hatted man with whom Pepper saw Beth arguing that morning?

As the secrets of the market come to light, long-held grudges, family ties, and hidden plans only further obscure the truth. Is it a ghost of the past rattling its chains, or a contemporary Scrooge with more earthly motives? As Pepper chases down a killer, someone is chasing her, and in the end, the storied market itself may hold the final, deadly clue.

A cozy holiday mystery full of culinary delights and a rich cast of characters, the sixth installment in the Spice Shop Mystery series will keep you turning the page…and reaching for another piece of peppermint bark.

Series: A Spice Shop Mystery, #6
Seventh Street Books
ISBN-10: 1645060543
ISBN-13: 978-1645060543
July 19, 2022

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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. Watch for Peppermint Barked, the sixth Spice Shop mystery, in July 2022. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense beginning with Bitterroot Lake in April 2021 and continuing with Blind Faith in October 2022. A three-time Agatha-Award winner (2011, Best Nonfiction; 2013, Best First Novel; 2018, Best Short Story), she is a current board member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She lives in northwest Montana. You can learn more on her website.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, which are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Delighted to be here today! Thanks so much for the invitation.

  2. The book sounds interesting and fun to read.


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