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.

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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