"Death in a Budapest Butterfly" By Julia Buckley: Review/Giveaway/Guest Post

by Cynthia Chow

This week we have a review of the first in a new series by Julia Buckley, along with an interesting guest post by Julia about her Hungarian grandfather. Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review and links to purchase it.

For nearly three decades, Maggie’s Tea House in Chicago has been run by three generations of the family’s women. While Hana Keller and her mother Maggie oversee the preparation of presentation of Hungarian tea and pastries, matriarch Juliana Horvath gives out free tea leaf readings from the remnants of the customers’ tea cups. It is Hana, though, who experiences a sense of foreboding on the morning of a tea service for the women of St. Stephen’s parish, and her anxiety is backed by an ominous reading of Ava Novak’s tea cup. When Ava is found slumped on the floor of the ladies’ room, it is bad luck for all as the Tea House is temporarily closed while police investigate the death by poison.

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Hana is heartbroken that her newly acquired antique Butterfly teacup is confiscated for being the carrier of the poison with a threat written inside, and she is even more concerned when her grandmother is questioned for giving Ava such a dire reading. The one consolation is that the investigating Detective Erik Wolf is developing an interest in the case; or more specifically, a personal interest in Hana. Feeling a bit out of his element amidst the Hungarian women and their traditional ways, Wolf guilt-trips Hana into verifying their testimonies and providing insight in to their relationships. After the Tea House reopens and they resume the business of providing delicious Hungarian noodles and delicacies, Hana learns that she has a family gift that could help to give her insight into these women whose kind faces may hide nefarious intentions.
Julia Buckley mystery
Image Source Berkley

The first of a new series by the author of the Writer’s Apprentice and the Undercover Dish Mystery series introduces readers to a fascinating community with Hungarian roots and traditional ways. Descriptions of Hana and her grandmother preparing one of a dozen different types of Hungarian noodles will have mouths watering, and recipes of Paprikas dishes and dumplings will further tantalize readers. Not only are the tales of fairies and wolves integral to the plot, they are the core of beliefs and stories passed down from generation to generation. As Juliana tells Hana, the Hungarians are a sad people with a sad history and aren’t afraid to hold grudges, and this is reflected in their rather gruesome bedtime stories and morose songs. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t coped with loss through a lot of humor, especially when it comes to seeing the next generation matched up and married.

While Hana resists the pressure to settle down now that she’s in her late twenties, she helps her brother’s extremely shy and introverted girlfriend to socialize and adjust to their rather exuberant family. Just as awkward with dating is Detective Wolf, and readers will look forward to seeing how he manages to navigate the sizzling attraction that sparks between himself and Hana. Romance, the embrace and celebration of Hungarian culture, and an abundance of European cuisine make this a wonderful introduction to a unique, welcoming new series.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

The Lasting Legacy of My Grandfather
By Julia Buckley

My grandfather was born in Hungary in what is now Slovakia. He grew up poor, the child of peasants, and was probably about fifteen when he emigrated to America, alone. He only met my grandmother later, when he was living in Chicago.

He had all sorts of tales of his journey: how the word spread that you had to show evidence, in the long immigration line, that you had some means of establishing yourself. And so the person in front would show a piece of paper currency and then pass it to the person behind him, all down the line. Or how, as he was getting on the boat with his friend, a man approached them and asked them to hold on to his wrapped Hungarian sausage until he could come back and claim it. They took it, and waited for a while, but finally ate it because they were hungry.

That last story shocked me when I was a child, because my grandfather was a very kind man, always. He was of the old Catholic tradition, and when I stayed at my grandparents’ house in the city, and visited the bathroom early in the morning, I often found him in the middle of his morning prayers, on his knees beside his bed. Perhaps he prayed for the soul of his son and namesake, Joseph, who died of scarlet fever when he was only six years old. That was a pain from which his parents never quite recovered. Even my father, who was going on three at the time of his brother’s death, has emotional scars from the loss.

Still, my grandpa managed to have a good sense of humor and was always gentle with his eleven grandchildren. We could climb on his lap and sip his beer and tell him jokes. In return, he had some Grandpa-style staples that served him well at every birthday party. Like pulling a lock of my hair with his left hand while he sat on my right, so that when I turned to find out who did it, I’d see no one. Or making sure he was behind me when I took a cookie or a brownie from the buffet, and then whispering, “Julie. You gonna get fat.” I’d turn and look into his sweet blue eyes and see that he was teasing me, and I would laugh.

When he retired, he would help my father with projects: building a second bathroom in our basement, working on the garden, building the deck. He was a hands-on man, and he liked to work until it became too painful to do so.

Even animals were drawn to him. When he visited our house, he would plop into a chair, my dad would bring him his favorite drink—a highball—and our dog Buffy would promptly appear before him, demanding love. He would pet her over and over again, saying, “Yah, yah. I like you, I like you, I like you, I like you.” We used to laugh about it, but of course he was just verbalizing what petting actually meant.
Figure 2 My grandparents in 1962. I was not yet born when this picture was taken. 
My mother is the woman seated with a little boy (my brother Chris) on her lap. All four of my siblings are in this photo, and my dad is behind the camera. 
My grandmother is holding my sister Linda.
At Christmas he would give us all a Kennedy silver dollar, solemnly going from child to child and pressing it into our palms with a gravitas that I still remember today. Holidays were always spent with much gayety at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandma would rule the kitchen, with its amazing aromas and clattering china, and Grandpa would sit drinking a highball and talking about politics, or the Cubs, or his memories of the railroad.

He worked for the railroad for decades, and even when he was an old man in a wheelchair, because his legs were riddled with arthritis, his back was solid with muscle.

He attended all of our childhood events—the concerts, the graduations, the birthday parties. He was proud of us, and though he didn’t always have the words to say it, we knew we had done well when he said, “Boy, boy, Julie. Boy, boy.”

In my book “Death in a Budapest Butterfly,” Hana Keller, too, has a sweet and affectionate grandfather. He is not my grandfather exactly, but of course I had the one in mind when creating the other. Hana’s grandfather has a bit more of a grasp of the English language and was born several decades later than my dear grandfather, but they share a sensibility. So the Andras Horvath you read about on the page has some of my own grandfather’s essence within him.

My grandfather’s name was Joseph Rohaly. When my nephew, also named Joseph Rohaly, was born, he happened to come into the world on the same day my grandfather had ninety-two years earlier: August 10th. My grandfather seemed pleased by the symmetry of this, and commented to my brother, “One Joe come in, one Joe go out.”

He did in fact die just a few months later, and it was a sad occasion. But he had lived a long life and made a major impact on America with the roots he laid down in his adopted country.

To enter to win a copy of Death in Budapest Butterfly, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "butterfly,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 14, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via comment please include your email address. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, we will not use your address for any other reason. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section in Kings River Life and in our mystery category here on KRL News & Reviews. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. And check out our new mystery podcast featuring mystery short stories and first chapters read by actors. A new episode goes up this week.

Check out the episode of Mysteryrat's Maze that features a mystery short story written by Julia Buckley:

You can use these links to purchase the book. If you have adblocker on you may not be able to see the Amazon link:

Julia Buckley is a Chicago area mystery writer and high school English teacher. She writes three mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime: The Writer's Apprentice Mysteries, the Hungarian Tea House Mysteries, and the Undercover Dish Mysteries. She has two grown sons; she lives with her husband, three cats and a black Labrador in a house that is too small for them.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. This looks really good!!


  2. Want to read this! I really enjoy her other series.

  3. Thanks for the chance! JL_Minter@hotmail.com

  4. This new series sounds great! Thanks for the chance to win Death in a Budapest Butterfly, by Julia Buckley. nschwenkner (at) gmail (dot) com

  5. What great memories you have of your Grandfather. Thank you for the chance to read this.
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

  6. I loved the story about The Original Joseph Rohaly. I had a grandfather who told stories and also made sure that I knew he loved me. He was a blessing in my life just as your grandfather was a blessing to everyone he met. This book sounds like a fun read. Thank you for the opportunity.

  7. This new series sounds great, Thanks for this amazing chance. lindamay4852@yahoo.com


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