Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes: Guest Author, Review & Giveaway

The Pickled Piper

A Book Can Spring from a Single Word—if It’s a Tasty One

Mary Ellen Hughes

After having written and published five mysteries, including the Craft Corner mystery series, I was mulling over what to do next. Since I love writing cozy mysteries, I wanted a theme or topic that would fit with a cozy (no bounty hunters or blood-splatter forensic specialists, for instance) but that I would enjoy researching and writing about. I also wanted a subject that hadn’t already been done, and done well. After all, who could top Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand bookstore mysteries or Kate Collins’s flower shop mysteries, though I’d love to write about both bookshops and flowers!

Then one day my husband looked at me and said, “Pickles.”

“Pickles?” I laughed, thinking at first he was joking. But it got me thinking. And the more I thought, the more a story started to form around pickles. Not only dill pickles, though, or gherkins or bread and butters. There’s a whole world of pickles out there, from artichokes to zucchini, and everything in between. Just about anything edible can be pickled, I found—and deliciously.

Then there’s jams and preserves, which also go through the canning process. And we shouldn’t forget freezer and refrigerator pickles, which are easy as pie. Easier, actually.

My enthusiasm increased, and I began to picture my main character—named Piper, of course—a young woman who, I decided, had learned all about pickling and preserving during childhood summers spent at her Aunt Judy and Uncle Frank’s farm in upstate New York. Uncle Frank grew the vegetables and Aunt Judy preserved and pickled them in her big farm kitchen. This, I was sure, had fascinated Piper as a child and came to be her chosen profession as an adult.

But not without a few bumps in the road. Piper had to first work in an unfulfilling (for her) job in the state tax office in Albany, New York. It’s also where she met and became engaged to Scott, an assistant district attorney—a decent enough guy, but perhaps not quite right for Piper. So when the engagement ended,  Piper took a long look at her life and decided it was time to do things that were right for her. She moved to Cloverdale, the small town near her aunt and uncle’s farm, and embraced her first love of pickling and preserving by setting up a shop called Piper’s Picklings.

Before I knew it, I had pretty much populated Cloverdale, including a new love interest for Piper (although her old one continued to distract her), and a variety of other shop keepers and friends. It became a delightful place, at least in my mind, but unfortunately I couldn’t let it stay that way. Conflicts had to brew, some small, but at least one huge one. I hated to spoil my newly-created Eden, but I bit the bullet and did it. I dropped a snake into my paradise, a person who appeared as likeable and harmless as everyone else, but who had committed that terrible crime of crimes: murder!

Poor Piper! Here she’d probably hoped I would let her spend her days whipping up batches of pickled watermelon rind or cooking raspberries into jams. But now I’ve gotten her involved in a murder investigation, and she’s getting death threats! What a pickle!

So my book was on its way. From a simple suggestion dropped by my husband to a town-full of characters and a mysterious plot. And for good measure, several enticing recipes scoured up and tested. That last part particularly pleased my husband, which, pickle-lover that he is, might actually have been his ulterior motive when he made his suggestion.

But then, I’d say he deserves his reward. After all, his single word—“pickles”—became the seed that grew about seventy-thousand more words. Hopefully my readers will find those words drawing them into an enjoyable read. A word of warning, though: more than one early reader has confessed to a craving for something pickled while flipping the pages of The Pickled Piper. It wouldn’t hurt to have a gherkin or a kosher dill on hand—just in case.


Blurb: After her dreams of romance are crushed, Piper Lamb decides to pursue her dream of opening her own shop of pickles and preserves, called Piper’s Picklings, in the idyllic small town of Cloverdale. But she isn’t in town long before she encounters a barrelful of trouble…

The Cloverdale fair offers Piper a sweet opportunity to promote her business. With her new assistant, Amy, she sets up a booth centered around an eye-catching display of the ever-popular dills in an old-fashioned barrel of brine.

But things soon turn sour when fairgoers witness a fight between Amy’s boyfriend, Nate, and town council blowhard—and bagpipe player—Alan Rosemont. When Rosemont is found floating in Piper’s barrel, Nate becomes the prime murder suspect. With Amy’s boyfriend in a pretty pickle, there’s no time to dillydally. But as Piper searches for the real killer, she needs to be careful to preserve her own life…or she may end up a pickled Piper herself.

Mochas, Mysteries and Meows Review: I've always enjoyed a good dill pickle, especially with a burger in the summertime, but until reading this book I never knew the work that went into pickling. Even more surprising are the types of produce that can be pickled!

Following a breakup, Piper Lamb has returned to Cloverdale, New York, to be near her Uncle Frank and Aunt Judy, and to open her pickles and preserves shop Piper's Pickling. She's excited to sell her products at the local fair until town councilman/antique shop owner/bagpipe aficionado Alan Rosemont is found dead and stuffed in Piper's pickle barrel. Worse yet, Piper's assistant Amy's boyfriend Nate is the main suspect following a nasty fight with the victim.

Piper soon discovers many in town wanted Alan dead: librarian Lyella and her worshipful husband for having the library painted pink, Dorothy Taylor's son Robby for conning them out of some antiques in her attic, and Alan's neighbor who wanted to wrap his bagpipes around his neck. Even the chocolate shop owner isn't as sweet as the confections she sells. I was sure I knew the killer - someone not even on Piper's radar - but was proven completely wrong.

This is a new series filled with memorable characters, my favorites including Piper's new love interest Will Burchett, owner of a Christmas tree farm, and nosy Martha Smidley, who always has her binoculars nearby and is upset when a doctor's appointment gets in the way of her monitoring neighborhood activity.

This is a page turning mystery set in an upstate New York town I could easily find myself at home in. I can't wait to visit again, hopefully for the grand opening of "The Burchett Christmas Gift Shop".

Giveaway: Leave a comment by noon eastern on Friday, May 16th for the chance to win a copy of The Pickled Piper. (US entries only, please.)


  1. thank you for the chance to win it, looks great :)

  2. I'm a big cozy fan and I've enjoyed Mary Ellen's previous books, so this looks very interesting to me. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  3. Looks like a fun book - hope to be able to read it!

  4. I love the title , thanks for the giveaway !

  5. I love cozy mysteries. Can't wait to read it.


  6. I would love to read this new first-in-series! (Even though pickles are not my favorite :-) )! All the best to you, Mary Ellen! Sounds like this is a winner with its delightful cast of characters!

  7. I love cozy mysteries and used to watch my mother prepare pickles, pickled beats, pickled peppers, and pickled okra. The book would probably take me back so it sounds like the perfect cozy for me.
    . .

  8. Ah, pickles. That fine art of finding ones I like.

  9. If it's pickled then it has to be good, including books, lol. I can't wait to try this one.

  10. ALways love an opportunity to get in on the beginning of a new series and a new (to me) author!

  11. I would love to read this book—thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  12. I have enjoyed Mary Ellen Hughes other series. I look foreword to reading this one.

  13. I love pickles and have been eyeing this series. I make a great refrigerator pickle myself! Living in WNY, I'm pleased to see a non NYC, NY Setting!

    cozyupwithkathy at gmail dot com

  14. I can't wait to read this one.... :)

  15. Thanks for the giveaway! I have put this book on my TBR list.

  16. I love Mary Ellen's other books and look forward to reading this one, thanks for the chance to win the Pickled Piper.

  17. Thanks for the giveaway! Can't wait to read it!

  18. I can't wait to read this. Mary Ellen writes the best books.

  19. This sound like a great new series. I'm looking forward to starting it. Thanks for the giveaway!


  20. Piper Lamb is such a great name for a cozy character. I would like to read this book.

  21. I really want to read this book!

    When I was a kid, one of my friend's mom pickled pickles. It was an interesting thing to watch.

    Thank you for the giveaway.
    kvmatlock (at) gmail (dot) com

  22. It sounds interesting. Thanks for offering the giveaway!

  23. So many books, not enough time, and I still want more books!

  24. Would love to read a new author (for me) and this book looks interesting

  25. Of course I love cozies, but it is the small town characters that draw me into a great book.
    Thanks for a chance to win.

    wismom works@ gmail DOT com

  26. Hey Melissa! Just discovered your blog thanks to Chatting About Cozies. Nice work! I'm a cozy fan from way back and will always welcome a new series and new author into my library. Thanks to both of you for a chance to win!
    Sandy in So. Cali

  27. Thanks for the giveaway!! Sounds like a good cozy...can't wait to read it!!!

  28. this unfortunately sounds like another, that i will be drooling my way thru, craving pickles!. i can't wait!

  29. Looking forward to reading this one!!