In Assault and Pepper by Leslie Budewitz, Pepper Reece has owned the Seattle Spice Shop in the Pike Place Market, a kind of permanent father’s market, for almost a year and has made a real name for herself as a genius with spice mixes. Known to all who own businesses there or spend consistent time there, Pepper notices a new man among the homeless, Doc, who gets into a fight over possession of the corner in front of her shop with one of the regulars at the market, Sam, with his terrier, Arf. Then the next day Pepper shows up for work to find the body of Doc slumped against her front door with a paper cup from her shop clutched in his hand.
It doesn’t take long for first Pepper’s patrol cop ex-husband, Tag, and then the detective partners Spencer and Tracy to show up, but they startle Pepper by arresting one of her employees, Tory Finch. Certain that Tory did not commit this crime, Pepper feels pushed to prove her employee’s innocence, even when Tory pushes away all help.
This book was entertaining and a decent start to a series. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the lively market, a real place in Seattle, along with Pepper’s spice shop. Each chapter opens with an interesting quote about spices, the Pike Place Market, or else something related to Seattle. The investigation takes interesting turns, while Pepper also struggles to keep her business strong.
I did feel that the large number of characters made the book confusing at times. It often took me time to figure out who the characters named in scenes were. I’ve read that the visual copy of the book opens with a list of characters, which doesn’t do a lot of good in audio books. The wide variety of people strolling through the pages often came across as flat, with little to make each stand out.
My other concern is the negative way this book portrayed law enforcement. Tag seems to use his job as a patrol cop to almost stalk Pepper, and the detectives act hostile toward Pepper, almost gleeful at causing havoc in her shop with their inspection and seizure of her property and stock. This creates a plausible set-up for Pepper’s need to investigate, but it seems unrealistic to make the police so negative.
The audio version is narrated by Dara Rosenberg, who does a fine job of reading.
Despite my criticisms, I still found the book enjoyable and will probably read the next in the series. I give the book four stars.
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