Monday, February 8, 2016

Character Interview: Piper Lamb, from Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes

Where are you from? Did you have a happy childhood? I’m from upstate New York, where I spent many happy childhood summers at my Aunt Judy and Uncle Frank’s farm. It was in my Aunt Judy’s kitchen that I learned all about pickling and preserving, and I continue to love it.
Where do you live now and what do you do for a living? Is there something you'd rather be doing? I’ve recently moved to Cloverdale, NY, the town near my aunt and uncle’s farm.  After breaking a going-nowhere engagement and leaving a dull office job in Albany, I set up Piper’s Picklings to do what truly makes me happy.
What's going on in your life right now? My pickles and preserves shop is doing well, but I had a couple of close calls myself after becoming involved in two murder investigations. Now a third murder has occurred, and the college-age son of a good friend is looking awfully suspicious to our sheriff. His mom is desperate for help, so I’ve started digging around to find out what really happened.
Is there someone special in your life? I’ve been seeing Will Burchett, a great guy who owns a Christmas tree farm not far from town.
How did you meet? What's his/her family like? My Aunt Judy sneakily set up a meeting at the town fair, where I took a booth to sell my pickles and introduce my shop. Will was flipping burgers for a youth group fund raiser. I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but a few sparks were definitely flying beyond the ones on the grill. Will is a newcomer to the Cloverdale area, a transplant from central Pennsylvania. I’ve yet to meet his family.
What's keeping you two apart? I haven’t been in any hurry to jump into a serious relationship after my disappointing engagement. Then, after traveling the world to “find himself,” my ex-fiancé decided we belonged together and moved to Cloverdale! To my surprise, I saw very positive changes in him, which stirred up feelings that I thought were long dead. I’ve been trying to get my head straight, since then. Luckily for me, Will has been very understanding and patient.
What one thing could you do that would make you feel like the relationship will work out? I could make up my own mind about exactly what I want! The distraction of all these murders, though, hasn’t given me much time to think.
Any last comments? You might think pickles and preserves have little to do with murder, but you’d be surprised. The two things become dangerously intertwined in the latest crime described in Scene of the Brine. 

Book blurb: 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…
Piper was helping an elderly gentleman who had stopped in at the shop to buy a large jar of bread and butters, when Emma Leahy walked in, her posture stiff and her face tense. Something was definitely up, and Piper hurried through the sale to learn what was bothering Emma. As the man shuffled out, Emma hurried forward.
“Bad news,” she said. “Joan Tilley’s in the hospital. She’s critically ill.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry to hear that. What’s wrong?”
Clearly struggling with her emotions, Emma took a moment to answer. “It was very sudden. Luckily her neighbor came by and called the ambulance.” She swallowed. “Joan had the same symptoms as Dirk Unger.”
“No!” Piper cried. “Mrs. Tilley? How could that be? And why?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense at all. But there’s something else you should know.”
Emma paused, the strain of worry for her friend making her suddenly gulp. When she regained control, she said, “It might have been your cherries. She’d been eating from a jar of your brandied cherries.”
Piper gasped, not knowing which was worse to hear—the illness or the cause. She stared, speechless for several moments. “I can’t believe it! How…?”
Emma shook her head, having no answer to Piper’s unfinished question. “I have to go,” she said. “I just wanted you to know.” She turned and hurried out.
A flood of questions filled Piper’s head as she stared in dismay after her disappearing friend.
Her cherries?  It couldn’t possibly be! The thought made her physically ill—though not, she was sure, as ill as poor Mrs. Tilley.

Author bio: Mary Ellen Hughes is the nationally bestselling author of the Pickled and Preserved mystery series, which begins with THE PICKLED PIPER and continues with LICENSE TO DILL and SCENE OF THE BRINE. She has also authored the Craft Corner mystery series, and the Maggie Olenski mysteries. A native of Wisconsin, she currently lives in Maryland. 
Author links, webpages, fan pages, and book trailers.

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