Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes (Pickled and Preserved Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great plot and characters
Cons: A bit slow to start
The Bottom Line:
Accountant murdered
Sets in motion a strong plot
Characters we like

The Accountant’s Number is Up

I’m an accountant by day, so I took note when it came to the murder victim in Scene of the Brine, the latest mystery from Mary Ellen Hughes.  Accountants are good people, right?  No one would ever want to harm one of us.  Of course, this accountant turns out to be a complete and total jerk, which made reading the book lots of fun.

The town of Cloverdale, New York, is abuzz about the Porter family who has just moved into town.  Jeremy Porter is a very successful realtor, and he’s bought an old mansion on the edge of town and his mother and sister have moved in with him.  Unfortunately, his accountant, Dirk Unger, has moved into town as well.  Dirk is a mean man who seems to have all the dirt on people and uses it to destroy them and help Jeremy.

Piper Lamb, the owner of Piper’s Picklings, sees just how devastating Dirk can be when her friend Sugar Heywood, a caterer in town, is crushed after Dirk destroys her personal life over something that happened years ago.  While much of the town is at a party, Dirk winds up dead from poison, and suspicion turns to Sugar’s son, Zach.  With Sugar in a panic, Piper begins to dig in to find out who else Dirk had destroyed.  Can she clear Zach’s name?

Since I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in the series, I was a bit surprised to find that it took me a few chapters to fully get into the book.  It has a bit of a slow start with a sub-plot that is used to introduce new characters, and Piper is told about some things that happen off page instead of witnessing them.  However, when the murder does happen, this information is used in the rest of the book.

Looking back at the book, it doesn’t take too long for the murder to happen, and once it does, things really do pick up.  In fact, it got so interesting I read almost half of it in one day – I just had to know what in the world was going on.  There were some nice twists I didn’t see coming that kept me confused.  I did figure out the killer before the end, but I had missed several logical clues.  The climax was creative and kept those pages turning while tying up all the red herrings.

The characters in the series are good, and I enjoy spending time with them.  We see some nice growth in a couple of the regulars, and the new characters are fleshed out with some secrets of their own.  They are a great group, and it’s hard not to root for them to have a happy ending.  Well, all except the murderer, or course.

Circling back around to the opening of my review, I want to be sure to point out that the accountant was a vile man.  He was one of those murder victims you loved to see wind up dead.  It actually made me think how seldom accountants really play a role in the cozies I read, which is probably one reason why the profession of the victim stuck out to me here (in addition to my day job as an accountant, of course).

And for those wondering, a plot thread opened in the last book in the series appears to be wrapped up successfully here.  At least I hope it is.  That’s all I will say on the subject to avoid any further spoilers.

Of course, we get two recipes at the end of the book, Brandied Cherries and Spicy Carrot Pickles.  I’ve got to admit, I still haven’t tried any different pickled vegetables, which I always say I’m going to do after reading a book in this series.  I guess I’m just not adventuresome enough.

In the end, any complaints I have about the book are truly minor.  For those who have been enjoying their visits with Piper and her friends, Scene of the Brine provides another fun trip.  And if you’ve missed this series, pick up one today.  You’ll find it well worth your time.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Thursday, February 11th, so please leave your comment before 12:01AM Pacific Time on 2/11.  You will have until midnight on 2/16 to get back to me, or I will choose a new winner on 2/17.


  1. I'd like to read this one....
    afarage (at) earthlink. net

  2. I haven't read this series yet but I am collecting them. Thanks for the review!

    ElaineE246 at msn dot com

  3. Sounds like a great series that I would love to try.
    Diane Rivera

  4. Love your review, I just realized that I haven't read the second book in this series. I'll have to get on that.
    momzillasteel at gmail dot com

  5. I have really enjoyed all the reviews you have posted and this one is no exception. I liked the first two books and can't wait to read this one. Thank you for the chance to win.

  6. Nice review! I love this series. It's such a fun theme. I always want to try out the recipes too. One of these days! Thanks for the giveaway. Fingers crossed!
    Scouts579 (at) aol (dot) com

  7. This series is on my TBR and despite the slow start it sounds really great. I'm intrigued by the pickled carrots recipes. I love pickled carrots when I've had them on sandwiches and would love to make my own!
    Thanks for hosting the giveaway! katherine.e.pitts(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. This series is new to me, look forward to reading. Sounds interesting.

  9. This series is new to me, look forward to reading. Sounds interesting.

  10. This would be a great title to add to my cozy challenge list. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

  11. Scene of the Brine sounds like a delightful book. I'd love to add a copy to my library. Thank you for this opportunity.

  12. I really enjoy this author and this series. Always happy to read a new one from her. Thanks for the review

    gibsonbk at hiwaay dot net

  13. This sounds like a cute series, and one that I would enjoy.

  14. Got a chuckle out of your review! It looks like a great story and I hope you're not looking over your own shoulder too much! Thanks for the chance to win!

  15. Like this series and was looking forward to seeing this installment out. Glad you liked it, too.

  16. I love this series!

  17. Great review. It sounds like this is a great book, I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the chance to win.

  18. This sounds like one where you really should read the whole series. Sounds good though. Good luck to all who enter the giveaway!

  19. Well I missed the giveaway but I enjoyed your review and I am going to look into this series. Thanks for sharing.


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