Pepper Reece, owner of the Seattle Spice Shop, who has gotten involved in two murders in the previous year, finds herself embroiled in another mystery, this time one that reaches back to get childhood in Killing Thyme by Leslie Budewitz. Learning of a potter who makes the best spice jars, Pepper goes to meet Bonnie Clay, only to have her mother, visiting from Costa Rica, recognize the potter as Peggy Manning, a woman from her young adulthood whom Pepper’s mother thought was long dead. Pepper notices serious tension between the women and overhears part of a conversation in which her mother warns someone else about Peggy/Bonnie. Pepper grew up in Grace House, the large family home of her best friend, Kristin, which became the center of social activism in the 1970s, and Peggy was a friend who visited sometimes. So Pepper brings Peggie/Bonnie to a big open house celebrating the remodeling of this house. That night Kristin shows off a valuable diamond and sapphire bracelet she found in the basement. The next morning, Bonnie is found murdered, smashed in the head by a piece of her pottery. Further, Kristin discovers that her bracelet has been stolen.
All of Pepper’s friends urge her not to get involved again in murder, but at the same time they keep asking her what she has learned about the case. Learning that her mother had a fight with Peggie, Pepper realizes that her mom is a key suspect, leading her to try to figure out what happened to the murdered woman as well as the bracelet. She has to turn back to her childhood to seek answers.
This book has an interesting plot, but it does not move as fast as the previous two books. Pepper, who narrates the book, spends a lot of time analyzing the details of the case mentally, which gets a little tedious. The quality of the writing is very strong, helping to improve the quality of the book. I have read hundreds of cozy mysteries, and few have as strong a writing style, which includes the vocabulary, sophistication of sentence structure, and research, as Budewitz exhibits. In addition, the degree of details that Pepper gives about the spices in her shop demonstrates a high level of research. I also liked the philosophical and theoretical points that the book uses to help solve the murder.
Dara Rosenberg narrates this audiobook. She sounds realistically like I might imagine Pepper’s sounding. My only concern is that Pepper frequently states her thoughts while in the midst of other people, such as giving the response she wants to give before saying out loud something else, and it is often confusing to tell whether she is stating thoughts or words out loud. Otherwise, I was happy with the quality of her performance.
I enjoyed Killing Thyme, which has an interesting story and strong writing. I did wish sometimes for less internal dialogue. I give it four stars.
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