Here in Montana, we love our festivals. Summers are short and stunning—and in every corner of the state, we celebrate. The Festival of Nations. Mule Days. Homesteader Days. Buzzard Days—honoring ‘nature’s cleaners’. The Strawberry Festival. Rendezvous Days. Pow Wows. The Sweet Pea Festival of the Arts. Dog and Grog, celebrating hot dogs and cold beer. Lewis & Clark Reenactments. Music festivals: jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, guitar, Mozart. And on and on—not to mention Huckleberry Days in half a dozen towns, celebrating the tart, purple jewels Montanans fight the bears for every August.
So earlier this summer, not long after I came back to Jewel Bay to take over my family’s century-old general store, I talked the village merchants into starting a new festival. The Festa di Pasta, to kick off summer and celebrate the Merc’s transformation into a market filled with local foods and treats. A weekend celebrating Italian fare, with music in the streets and fun and games for all ages, seemed perfect. But when I found our former manager dead in the alley on opening night and my mother was accused of murder—well, not so perfect. (You can read how I managed to save both Fresca and the store, after confronting a chef bent on keeping his past a secret, challenging my old friend, now the local sheriff’s detective, and rescuing my new boyfriend and my shop assistant from permanent cold storage in Death al Dente.)
So when the 35th Annual Jewel Bay Summer Art and Food Festival rolled around, I decided to take a backseat. Sure, Fresca and Old Ned Redaway started the Festival, years before I was born, and yes, its success to vital to the village economy. And I’ll help—the tiny, unincorporated town would be nothing without its volunteers, and my family’s always been among the first to raise our hands. But I’m just going to enjoy the fun. I’ll scout for new vendors for the Merc. I’ll drool over the pottery—maybe even pick up a piece or two. I’ll be glad to assist the crew of the TV show Food Preneurs, in town to film the event and give the local cooks and artists some national attention. And I’ll eat my fill at the Grill-off, the friendly competition to see which village chef serves up the best steak. But that’s it. I’m not taking charge of anything.
But you know it doesn’t turn out that way. When the show’s producer is killed in a hit-and-run, Erin is drafted to step in. Then one of the contestants is attacked and dies. To keep the town’s reputation from crashing and burning on national TV, Erin must grill a few suspects to smoke out the killer. It might not be pretty, and it might not make Undersheriff Ike Hoover or Detective Kim Caldwell happy. But you know she’ll do it—as Fresca says, “Murphy girls don’t quit.” And you know that in the end, Erin will serve up truth and justice. All for the love of the Merc and Jewel Bay.
About Crime Rib (second in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, July 1, 2014, Berkley Prime Crime):
“Gourmet food market owner Erin Murphy is determined to get Jewel Bay, Montana’s scrumptious local fare some national attention. But her scheme for culinary celebrity goes up in flames when the town’s big break is interrupted by murder…
Food Preneurs, one of the hottest cooking shows on TV, has decided to feature Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode, and everyone in town is preparing for their close-ups, including the crew at the Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc. Not only is Erin busy remodeling her courtyard into a relaxing dining area, she’s organizing a steak-cooking competition between three of Jewel Bay’s hottest chefs to be featured on the program.
But Erin’s plans get scorched when one of the contending cooks is found dead. With all the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to figure out who didn’t have a motive to off the saucy contestant. Now, to keep the town’s rep from crashing and burning on national television, Erin will have to grill some suspects to smoke out the killer…”
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 22 for the chance to win a copy of CRIME RIB. (US entries only, please.)
About the author
Leslie Budewitz is the national best-selling author of Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in northwest Montana, and winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Crime Rib, the second in the series, was published by Berkley Prime Crime on July 1, 2014. Her Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries will debut in March 2015.
Also a lawyer, Leslie won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books), making her the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.
For more tales of life in the wilds of northwest Montana, and bonus recipes, visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter.
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