featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Mary Ellen Hughes is the national bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved Mystery series and the Craft Corner Mysteries. Learn more about her and her books at her website.  Today Mary Ellen’s latest amateur sleuth, Piper Lamb, joins us.

Unexpected Perks of Decorating

Hi! Piper Lamb, here, proprietor of Piper’s Picklings, the shop in upstate New York that I opened after breaking off my going-nowhere engagement with Scott.

I love my little shop, where I make and sell all kinds of pickles, along with the spices and equipment for making your own. The first year, I was pretty busy just getting my new business off the ground and wasn’t too concerned with decorating. But when Ralph Strawbridge, who happens to be a master carpenter, saw the deteriorating condition of my front door, he offered to replace it with a hand-carved door.

At first, I hesitated, wondering if I could afford that. But then he gave me a too-good-to-pass-up price quote, so I jumped at it.

Ralph’s inspiration was the beautiful plaque Scott sent me from Thailand as he traveled the world to “find himself.” Though I loved the plaque, which was carved with all the vegetables and fruits that I pickle and preserve, I was also pretty annoyed because sending me such a great gift meant he was ignoring the fact that we were no longer a couple. Eventually, though, I hung the plaque up in the shop, where Ralph spotted it.

Ralph did an amazing job duplicating the carvings on his door. Once it was in place, crowds actually gathered to ooh and ahh over it. I was so delighted that we decided to hold a “grand opening” for the door, and we put together a celebration at the shop for the next night.

The party was great fun, despite the sound of nearby sirens, which, we learned the next day were due to a murder. Unfortunately, the immediate suspect was Zach, the college-aged son of Sugar, an amazing caterer who is also my good friend. How could I say no to her plea for help when Zach was on the verge of being charged for murder?

Ralph, besides being such an outstanding carpenter, showed a whole other side of himself by jumping in and coming up with great leads for other suspects, as well as giving Sugar much needed support. This led Sugar, who I think had been vastly underestimating Ralph, to see him with fresh eyes.

Yes, that carved door led to many things beyond being a lovely entrance into my shop. But isn’t that often the way with decorative art? What seemed at first like a small change—hanging a new plaque on the wall—led to an amazing new door, which brought people together who solved a murder and prevented a terrible injustice, not to mention the beginnings of a new romance!

The impact of that one plaque could hardly be predicted, but you might want to look around at your walls, or floors, or furniture and think about what might be worth a tweak or two. Hopefully there’ll be no murders to worry about (unless wallpaper is involved, LOL), but a small change in d├ęcor might do wonders for your life. I’d say go for it!

Scene of the Brine
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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Joyce P. said...

I enjoyed this, just as I enjoy Mary Ellen Hughes's books. I'm looking forward to reading Scene of the Brine.

Mary Ellen Hughes said...

Thank you, Joyce. I hope you'll enjoy Scene of the Brine.

Ray Flynt said...

Hope you sell a ton of this new book. I've got mine.

Mary Ellen Hughes said...

Thanks so much, Ray.