I first met Ruff and his brother Reddy when my book club met at Joanne’s house. “The boys”—then about two—left dead mice on the back doorstep, leapt over tall buildings in a single bound, and raced around her house like NASCAR drivers.
Then Joanne died. The boys went to live with a friend, but after an owl killed Reddy, the friend’s old cat began sharpening his claws on Ruff, so he came to live with us.
Ruff is a sable Burmese, meaning dark chocolate with black pointing—black on the face, tips of his ears, feet, and tale. He’s also got a bit of “locketing”—white flecks in his fur that are not signs of age, but typical of the breed. (In some Burmese—though not Ruff—the white flecks take on a locket-shaped patch at the throats.) Burmese have small heads with a distinctive profile. And like their Siamese cousins, they are big talkers. The breed is known for a combination of athleticism and cuddliness. We live in the country in northwest Montana, and Ruff is an avid mouse-hunter. He’s also an avid bird watcher—our bird feeders hang empty much of the year, as he can catch any songbird. Happily, he leaves the hummingbirds and wild turkeys alone.
But he’s no aloof “hands-off” cat. My husband is a doctor of natural medicine with a clinic in our home. Shortly after Ruff moved in, a new patient came to the house. Ruff met her at the door. “Oh,” she said, bending down to pet him and tearing up, “he looks just like my friend Joanne’s cat.” Turns out he’d been a sort of therapy cat, sitting on the bed and comforting Joanne in her last days. He often comes to the clinic waiting area—aka the library—and sits with a patient waiting to be seen.
And of course, when Book Club visits, he’s the star of the night.
So how did Mr. Sandburg come into the Food Lover’s Village Mysteries? In much the same way.
My protagonist, Erin Murphy, is a Montana girl who moved to Seattle after college to work for an international warehouse chain. On her walks around her Capitol Hill neighborhood, Erin met a retired English teacher named Roxy Turner. They became fast friends. When Roxy became ill and was hospitalized, Erin dropped by her apartment to check on Roxy’s Burmese cat, Mr. Sandburg. (Named for his yowl, which does not come in on little cat feet.) Earlier this year, Roxy died, leaving Erin her library of poetry and her cat. Which Erin’s lease prohibited.
So Erin and Sandburg moved to Montana. And therein lies a tale. Or a tail. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, is new from Berkley Prime Crime (August 2013). The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as the Food Lovers’ Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead…
Leslie is also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction. Leslie’s second series, The Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, will debut in early 2015. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband and, of course, Ruff. Visit her online at www.LeslieBudewitz.com or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LeslieBudewitz/Author