By Liz, happy to have Emmeline Duncan join us on the blog today, talking about coffee, mysteries and food carts! Enjoy…
For one beautiful summer years ago, there was a food cart pod with a fantastic coffee cart not too far from my house in Portland, Oregon. Walking to the pod was one of my black lab’s favorite activities since the coffee cart—Ole Latte Coffee–had dog treats. We’d go, and my dog would stand on his back legs with his paws against the counter until Todd (the cart’s owner) gave him a treat or two or three.
One thing I noticed when visiting the food carts is that it was a small community. I’d chat with the owners, who were all committed to serving the best food or drinks possible. Sadly, the lot holding the pod was redeveloped to become an apartment building. Thankfully, you can still find phenomenal food cart pods around Portland, frequently in collaboration with microbreweries in a marriage of small business owners focused on their passions. I’ve followed most of the carts by my house to new locations across the city. (Although I’m still salty one of the carts moved to Nevada.)
Fresh Brewed Murder is the combination of two lifetime loves: coffee and mysteries, along with my stomach’s appreciation for food carts. I’ve done my best to reflect the Portland I know in the novel. It touches on some of the issues Portland struggles with, like gentrification and homelessness. But it also celebrates the DIY sensibility and creativity that infuses the city. Plus bicycles.
The novel is set at The Railyard, an inner-Portland food cart pod that, sadly, only exists in my head. But it is a compilation of my local favorites. It was fun to imagine the food I’d like to see in one spot. I decided the carts needed local flavor, so I gave a few of them a Pacific Northwest spin. PDXJojos serves properly broasted chicken and jojos, while 4 & 20 Blackbirds specializes in a marionberry pie on a gluten-free hazelnut crust. And since it’s Portland, one cart serves falafel that’s both vegan and delicious.
Sage, the story’s narrator, wants to be a force for good in the world, even if she’s still figuring out how. She’s the daughter of a notorious con artist and, in a way, feels like she’s atoning for her mother. (Side note for Leverage fans: I’ve joked before that Sage’s mother is like an evil Sophie Devereaux). When Sages starts Ground Rules, a coffee cart and roastery, with her friend, Harley, she wants to make everyone’s day brighter with a perfectly crafted coffee drink. She’s really not prepared to find the dead body of a customer next to her cart. It turns out he’s the developer of the new apartment building across the street, and he’s had his eye on the Rail Yard. And Sage is shocked to find out her mother once swindled the developer out of a large sum of money. With Sage as the police’s number suspect and a murderer on the loose, she needs to solve the case before her new business and maybe even her life come to a bitter end.
Launching Fresh Brewed Murder now feels strange, but everything in the world feels off-kilter. I’m thankful I’m scheduled to do virtual bookstore and library events in multiple states without needing to leave my home. I look forward to saying hi to readers, booksellers, and my fellow writers in person again. In the meanwhile, know I’m toasting all of you with a cup of java. Of course, I brewed the coffee with my favorite Kalita Wave pourover cone, along with locally roasted beans grounded fresh. I added a splash of Oatly barista as the finishing touch.
What’s your favorite coffee, tea, or other hot drink to pair with a good read? Two US-based commenters will receive a copy of Fresh Brewed Murder and a handknit coffee sleeve! One international commenter will receive a copy of the novel sent directly from an online bookshop.
The first installment in Emmeline Duncan’s hipster Ground Rules Mystery Series, Fresh Brewed Murder, arrives on March 30th, 2021. As Kelly Garrett, she’s the author of the Oregon Book Award-finalist YA thriller The Last To Die and a 2020 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipient. You can find her online at emmelineduncan.com, on Instagram and Facebook as @writeremmelineduncan, and on Twitter as @Duncan_Emmeline. If you look for her in person, you might find her in one of Portland’s coffee shops or on a hiking trail somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, accompanied by her Great Pyrenees, Waylon.