Tag Archives: Mary Ellen Hughes

My Musing ~ A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes is the first book in the NEW “Keepsake Cove” mystery series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, November 2017

Callie Reed pays a long overdue visit to her aunt, Melodie, at her fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, which is home to a bevy of collectible shops on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Just as they’re beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt’s body on the floor of the music box shop she owns. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can’t accept Melodie’s death being ruled accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she in the shop in the middle of the night?

As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn’t careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie’s collection.

I love visiting small quaint town and Keepsake Cove is one where we find Callie Reed mourning the loss of her aunt. What appears to be an accident turns into something sinister when the pieces starts falling in place and it’s up to Callie to bring a killer to justice.

I liked the pacing and the comfortable tone of this book which made it easy to follow and kept me entrenched in all that was happening. The narrative was visually descriptive putting me in the middle of all the action. The suspect list was plentiful, and the author gave just enough clues to keep me intrigued in all that was possible, but it was that perfectly timed clue that gave me the “aha” moment and I enjoyed watching it all play out with this wonderful cast of characters as the killer’s identity was revealed. A terrific first book in the series and I can’t wait to read more about Callie and her friends and that small quaint town of Keepsake Cove.

A day in the life of Callie Reed by Mary Ellen Hughes

Hi, I’m Callie Reed, brand new proprietor of a music box shop, and I can assure you I’m a bundle of emotions and nerves as I reach to lift the shade for the first time at House of Melody.

I’ve only recently inherited the shop from my Aunt Melodie, totally unexpectedly. What do I know about running a business? I do know a few things about music boxes because my Grandfather Reed had collected them. His collection formed the foundation of Aunt Mel’s shop, though she’d added many, many more over the years.

But she never offered one particular music box for sale, the one I remembered most fondly from my childhood. It’s the one Grandpa Reed would wind up for me to play The Skater’s Waltz, and eight-year-old me would pretend to skate to the tune. Aunt Mel held on to that special one, and she promised to leave it to me, in time.

Imagine my shock when “in time” turned out to be the day after my visit. That’s when I found Aunt Mel dead in the early morning at the shop. The next shock came when I learned she’d left me not just one music box but her entire shop of music boxes and the fairy tale cottage behind it to live in!

So, here I am, ready to raise the shade for my first day as owner and operator of House of Melody with feelings of grief, gratitude, and a smattering of optimism. That last came from knowing I wouldn’t be setting off on this new phase alone. Aunt Mel’s part-time helper was going to be a major support, though her “creative” (some might say “startling”) outfits while doing so will take some getting used to.

Then there are the shopkeepers of Keepsake Cove itself, an amazing section of town that offers all things collectible, from my music box shop to Christmas collectibles, vintage toys, glass figurines and more. You name it, and if it’s collectible, Keepsake Cove has it.

Delia, who lives next door and had been Aunt Mel’s best friend, owns Shake It Up! which sells collectible salt and pepper shakers. Delia has been a wonder of support for me after Aunt Mel’s death. The police have pronounced it an accident. But I’ve been struggling with that. And I’m not the only one. Tabitha has her doubts, too, although she happens to be highly influenced by the readings of her Tarot cards.

But there’s also the unnerving incidents that have to do with Grandpa Reed’s music box. It’s played—all by itself—at times that seemed to be comments of approval, or sometimes warnings. Definitely unsettling, although Tabitha is convinced it’s Aunt Mel sending me messages through her favorite music box. I’m not so sure, but neither can I totally explain what’s happening.

But I do know that I’m going to work hard at finding the truth of what happened to Aunt Mel. If Grandpa Reed’s music box helps guide me to it, then fine. Will it, on the other hand, keep me out of trouble? That I don’t know. But first of all, I need to lift the shade and open my door to this new phase of my life. Is it going to be a positive one? I’ll have to wait and see.


You can read more about Callie in A Fatal Collection, the first book in the NEW “Keepsake Cove” mystery series.

Callie Reed makes a long overdue visit to her aunt Melodie, who lives in a fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, home to a bevy of unique collectible shops on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Just as they’re beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt’s body on the floor of her music box shop. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can’t accept Melodie’s death being called accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she there in the middle of the night?

As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn’t careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie’s collection.

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About the author
Mary Ellen Hughes is the bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved Mysteries, the Craft Corner Mysteries, and the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, along with several short stories. A Fatal Collection is the first in her new Keepsake Cove mystery series.

A Wisconsin native, she has lived most of her adult life in Maryland, where she’s set many of her stories, raised two children, and a few cats and vegetables. She credits her husband with being her greatest inspiration as well as top supporter. You can visit her at maryellenhughes.com.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes

Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes is the third book in the “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, February 2016

Scene of the BrinePiper Lamb has to take a break from jarring her delicious pickles and preserves to blow the lid off a poisoner. . .

Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit.

Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself. . .

This is a fun book to read. I love the idea of a pickling theme and learning what can and cannot be pickled. In the latest adventure, things get dicey when murder strikes and goods sold at Piper’s place is deemed poisoned. Now it’s up to Piper and her friends to find the person responsible for this dastardly crime.

The author does a good job of keeping me engaged and entertained through out this delectable mystery with plenty of suspects with motives and the clues given aids in the identifying killer with a nice twist to enhance the narrative of this tale. All the major players had a key role in this terrific book and the ending put a smile on my face. I can’t wait to see where we go next in this delightfully charming series.

A Day in the Life with Sheriff Dan Carlyle by Mary Ellen Hughes

Scene of the Brine‘Morning. Dan Carlyle, here, sheriff of Cloverdale. That’s in upstate New York. For a small town, we’ve had a rash of murders, lately. More than our share, I’d say, and it seemed to pick up around the time Piper Lamb opened up her pickling shop here. Not that I’m blaming her. Not at all. It’s just that the timing seems odd.

Of course, a pickling shop is kinda odd, too, when you think of it. A whole shop of pickles and preserves? But I’m not complaining. It’s great-tasting stuff, plus it gave my little girl a job. Amy finished cooking school around the time Piper’s Picklings opened up, and she’s one super-cook, if I say so myself. Since Amy could only find part time work in A La Carte restaurant’s kitchen, picking up extra hours at Piper’s Picklings was good for her. And she loves fixing all those pickles with Piper—and selling them—just as much as I enjoy eating them.

But the downside is Amy gets too close for my comfort to these murders that have been happening, what with Piper jumping in to prove that the people I’m looking at real close are innocent. I’ve had some serious talks with both the young ladies about that. But I could see it going in one ear and out the other. So far it hasn’t put Amy in any danger, thank the Lord, but Piper’s had a few close calls.

Right now I’m off to deal with yet another murder. It looked like a natural death at first, but it’s turned into a homicide case. What do you want to bet that Piper gets involved, somehow? I wouldn’t take that bet if I were you ’cause the odds are pretty good she will. Unless. . .

Piper and that young Christmas tree farmer, Will Burchett, have been looking pretty cozy lately. Maybe they’ll be too wrapped up in each other to think about other things like murder. Except, from what Amy tells me, Piper’s Picklings has practically turned into News Central, with customers rushing in with the latest bulletins. Burchett can’t be with Piper 24/7, much as I’m sure he’d like to be, so Piper’s going to have her curiosity piqued all day long. One way or another—count on it—she’s going to get involved.

Maybe I’ll be lucky and someone will step forward right away with their hands up and admit they did it. Think that’ll happen?

In my dreams.

Okay, Piper. One way or another, here we go again. Just, please—for my sake—or for Will’s sake—be careful!


Scene of the Brine is the third book in the “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime, February 2016.

Piper Lamb has to take a break from jarring her delicious pickles and preserves to blow the lid off a poisoner. . .

Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit.

Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself. . .

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All comments are welcomed.

About the author
Mary Ellen Hughes is the national best-selling author of the Pickled and Preserved mystery series, which began with The Pickled Piper and License To Dill and continues with Scene Of The Brine. A Maryland resident, Mary Ellen’s previous books include the Craft Corner mysteries: Wreath Of Deception, String Of Lies, and Paper-Thin Alibi. Visit her at www.maryellenhughes.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Scene of the Brine. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end February 12, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

My Musing ~ License to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes

License to DillLicense to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes is the second book in the “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015

Piper Lamb knows how to make fruits and vegetables keep for months. Unfortunately, it’s the people around her who are expiring too soon.

After her fiancé left her, Piper came to Cloverdale to rebuild her life and open up her shop, Piper’s Picklings, to sell pickles and preserves. When her ex decides to drop in for a visit—just as things are heating up between her and a local Christmas tree farmer—Piper finds herself in a jam.
But there are other visitors to worry about.

An Italian soccer team is set to play the Cloverdale All-Stars in an exhibition game. Their manager, Raffaele Conti, was a bitter rival of Piper’s dill supplier, local farmer Gerald Standley. After Conti is found dead in Standley’s field, Piper must work to clear Gerald’s name and find out who relished killing Raffaele before the town is soured by another death.

I enjoyed this story that was a delight to read with Piper taking on the role, once again, of an amateur sleuth to help a friend and she does this will help from an unexpected source. The action-filled drama kept my interest from beginning to end with a well-stocked storyline that was light and fresh and continue to build to that final moment with the killer’s identity was revealed. This was a good read with a lovable cast of characters and engaging dialogue. The way the book ended, I’m looking forward to the next book in this charming series.

A Day in the Life of Amy Carlyle by Mary Ellen Hughes

License to DillHi! I’m Amy Carlyle, Piper Lamb’s part-time assistant at the pickling shop. I love my job ’cause it lets me do all sorts of pickling and preserving in addition to just handling sales. I’m a trained chef, though I’m recently out of school and could only land a part-time job in the kitchen of one of Cloverdale’s top restaurants. But that gives me great experience. Working at Piper’s Picklings has given me great experience, too, but of a whole other kind.

Take today, for instance. Piper’s ex-fiancé, Scott, showed up in Cloverdale after traveling the world to “find himself,” conveniently forgetting that Piper had broken up with him. He obviously planned to pick things up with her where they had left off, but Piper’s new boyfriend, Will, had other things to say about that. I could tell that Piper had torn feelings after seeing Scott again after so long. That was going to make things very interesting!

Then Mr. Standley came by with a delivery of the fresh dill he grows on his farm outside of Cloverdale. It’s the best dill in the country! But Mr. Standley has other interests, too, like soccer, and he was all excited about the Italian semi-pro soccer team coming to play the Cloverdale All-Stars, a team he happens to help coach. He’s totally over the moon about the match.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret Mr. Standley doesn’t know yet: the manager of the Italian team is an old nemesis of his from their high school days. I’m afraid that’s going to be quite a shock when Mr. Standley sees him step off the team’s bus. Old feelings and rivalries, don’t just die away. But old nemeses sometimes do, especially if they’re shot. And if their body happens to be discovered in an enemy’s dill field, well, that dill farmer is in a lot of trouble.

I’ll hate to see Mr. Standley in a lot of trouble—he seems like a really nice guy! But I suspect Piper will step in to help, and not just because she’d lose a great dill source but because she’s pretty good that way. Who knew someone who makes terrific pickles and preserves would also have a bit of Sherlock Holmes in her? Not me, that’s for sure. But I’m really glad she does. She helped me out in a major way last summer, so I hope she can do it again for Mr. Standley.

I’d better get back to work, now. Green tomato relish doesn’t jump up and make itself, you know, and Piper has a great recipe for it. While I’m back here, chopping and cooking, I can still hear what’s going on in the front of the shop.

I wonder who’s going to walk in next?


You can read more about Amy in License to Dill, the second book in the “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is The Pickled Piper.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on February 20 for the chance to win a copy of License to Dill. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes.

About the author
Mary Ellen Hughes has written two previous mystery series: the popular Craft Corner Mysteries (Wreath of Deception, String of Lies, Paper-thin Alibi) and the Maggie Olenski mysteries (Resort to Murder, A Taste of Death.) She lives in Maryland with her husband, who has long provided her with all the homegrown vegetables she could want for preserving and pickling as well as many unique inspirations for mysteries.

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The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes

The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes is the first book in the new “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, May 2014

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.

I enjoyed this freshly-made story that was as sweet as the small town our heroine lives in and as sour as the murders that landed in her path. The author did a great job in pacing this light-hearted whodunit and setting up the mystery with enough suspects to keep me turning the pages, as I had to know who was behind it all. I liked that this tome teased me with clever twists that enhanced the delivery of this mystery as I followed the path of the killer. I like that the crime solving aspects of this story was a collaborating endeavor, led by Piper and their friends, lending a hand to clear Nate’s name. I love the small-town atmosphere giving a sense of close-knit family. Piper and her friends are very likable and I’m excited about their next adventures in this pleasantly delightful debut series.

previously posted on the Cozy Chicks blog

A Day in the Life of Piper Lamb by Mary Ellen Hughes

The Pickled PiperMy first day at the Cloverdale fair went great. I’d taken a booth to advertise my new shop, Piper’s Picklings, which I’d set up after my move to Cloverdale in upstate New York, and it was definitely working. Maybe it was my unique (and expensive!) pickle barrel, designed to look like the old fashioned ones that used to be in general stores. It held my home-made dill pickles, floating in brine, and people could pick out their own with a pair of tongs—which lots of them did! I knew my dills would go great with the fair’s lunches of hot dogs and hamburgers.

But I also had jars of plenty of other pickles—from bread and butters and pickled cauliflower to pickled watermelon rind and zucchini—for people to buy and take home, and those were selling like, well, like hotcakes. With every sale, I explained the process of pickling and encouraged newbies to give it a try. My new shop carried everything they’d need, along with scads of recipes for all things pickled and preserved.

I was in seventh heaven, talking about my favorite topic all day long as well as getting to know lots of townspeople. I knew a few already, having spent many childhood summers at my aunt and uncle’s nearby farm. But Will Burchett had only recently moved to the area, and I met him for the first time when Aunt Judy sent me off to the fund-raising booth where he was flipping burgers. Those bright blue eyes of his definitely set off a few sparks, though I wasn’t sure I was ready for a new romance, having just broken off an engagement back in Albany.

Not everyone I met that day, though, was so likeable. One of the town’s councilmen, Alan Rosemont, got into an argument near my booth with a local musician that nearly came to blows. Alan looked a bit ridiculous, actually, because he was wearing his kilt, which sagged low because of his paunch. But at least he didn’t have his bagpipes with him. I’d heard he thought he was the town’s outstanding bagpiper, which might have been true since he was the town’s only bagpiper. But I’d also heard that he’d aggravated quite a few with his odd-hours practicing.

When the younger of the two combatants walked away—with clenched fists, to be sure, but still away—I thought the problem had ended. How was I to know that one of them would end up dead and ruining my precious pickle barrel to boot?

Not the greatest way to start off a new pickling venture, to be sure!


You can read more about Piper in The Pickled Piper, the first book in the new “Pickled and Preserved” mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY
Comment on this post by 6 p.m. EST on May 9, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of THE PICKLED PIPER. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
Mary Ellen Hughes is the author of the Craft Corner Mysteries, including Wreath of Deception, String of Lies, and Paper-Thin Alibi, as well as the Maggie Olenski Mysteries, Resort to Murder and A Taste of Death. She lives in Maryland with her husband, who has long provided her with bounties of homegrown vegetables for preserving and pickling as well as unique inspirations for mysteries.

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