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Sue Hollowell

Pies and Pandemonium (PAPERBACK)

Pies and Pandemonium (PAPERBACK)

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A pie to die for, tangled family ties, and farmer’s market folly…

Buoyed by a new baking alliance with her business neighbor, Tilly teams up with her to enter the annual berry pie competition. Coupled with her parents first visit to quaint Belle Harbor, Tilly’s got her plate full. No sooner does she reconnect with her mom, than a dead body inserts itself front and center.

With the death of his father, the heir apparent to the ceramic pie plate empire is prime suspect number one. But as Tilly, and her unlikely sleuthing partner mom team up to investigate, they quickly find layers of deception buried deep in the history of the annual pie competition.

Tilly and her mom reveal the length contestants will go to for the top prize in the contest. Can they slice up this juicy mystery to serve up the killer or will they be forced to eat humble pie?


 Paperback 105 pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN 979-8756656725
 Publication date August 5, 2021
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


The early birds were in full swing at the Belle Harbor farmers’ market, preparing for the annual berry pie competition. The banner over our booth whipped with the strong breeze coming from the ocean. The cool air warranted a light sweater for the time being. But the sun would appear soon enough and the extra layer would shed. The contestants were elbow to elbow, adjusting the pie plates just right for the best presentation for the judges.

I must have lost my mind for a minute when I agreed to team up with Florence to enter a tayberry pie in the annual contest. I couldn’t have been more buried with work. My business was taking off, which left me and my new assistant Linda in search of a space of our own. We had outgrown the little corner kitchen that Uncle Jack had built in his Checkered Past Antiques store for my fledgling bakery. I was agonizing about choosing just the right location. Mandatory criteria for the decision included a close enough proximity to Uncle Jack that we could easily walk to maintain frequent contact. I would miss our early morning talks when few people were out and about on the beach. But even more so, I wanted Linda and Unkie’s relationship to continue, wherever that may lead. A girl could hope.

And entertaining my parents on their visit to Belle Harbor consumed any remaining moments I had. Quite a while had passed since I had any contact with them. I had needed to firmly establish myself in my new world before I felt confident enough to see them. Leaving Boston, and their vision for my life, was the only way to regain hope for my dream. When Uncle Jack told me they wanted to come to Belle Harbor to see me, I bristled at the idea. Through his encouragement to set my own terms for their visit I was able to agree and even looked forward to seeing them.

But, even absorbed with all of that, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to continue building a positive relationship with Uncle Jack’s business neighbor. We had not gotten off to a great start with Florence when she purchased the space next to Uncle Jack’s shop to open her bookstore. Discovering a dead body can tend to taint your view of the place. But despite our rocky start with her, we had come to a congenial place. My plying her with collectible books and baked goods didn’t hurt either.

With Florence’s old family recipe and my baking skills we decided to throw our pie into the ring this year. Through several attempts we settled on a version that wasn’t too tart and not too sweet. The local berry farms teemed with all varieties, but we chose the unique tayberry for our entry: a combination of blackberry and red raspberry. But my favorite feature that I hoped would set us apart was our crust design. We agreed on a top crust that had small heart shapes cut so you could see the vibrant berry color beneath. The pie was trimmed with small hearts around the edge of the plate. It had baked into a soft golden color, with just a tinge of crunchiness.

I placed a knife, pie server, and stack of plates in front of our pie. After the judges performed their first viewing for presentation, we would slice the pie for tasting.

Mom, Florence, and I had arrived early to set up for the event. I wanted as little stress today that I could manage. I looked at my watch. We had plenty of time before judging started. Thankfully, Linda and Unkie had agreed to staff the booth with Mocha Joe today. Between my blueberry scones and Joe’s coffee, our collaborative booth had become quite popular with the early morning market crowd for a breakfast treat.

I inhaled deeply. Florence stepped to my left side and placed her hand on my back. “That looks lovely. Even if we don’t win, I really enjoyed this,” she said, tipping her head down and peering over her glasses. Breaking her out of her shell had taken some doing, but we had arrived at a really nice place. She was old enough to be my grandmother but couldn’t have been any more different from Grandma Luna.

Mom joined us and asked, “Tilly, where can I get some coffee? And where did your dad get off to?” She gazed around, shading her eyes with her hand.

Florence’s hand remained on my back, applying a bit more pressure. I stood tall and faced my mom. “Not sure where Dad went. He mentioned something about checking out that booth with the steel garden gnomes,” I answered.

Mom waved her arm toward the parking lot. “Oh, that’s all we need, some junkie-looking thing in our yard to lower the property values.”

Florence moved away to leave Mom and me to this conversation. Ignoring Mom’s comment, I pointed to the right. “Unkie’s about five booths down the aisle. Past the ceramics vendor. They’ve got coffee and some of my blueberry scones.”

Mom leaned over the table, glancing in the direction I pointed. “Well, I never have sweets for breakfast. My poached egg and half grapefruit have served my figure well all this time.” She ran her hand from her waist to her thigh. “And why do you call him Unkie? His name is Jack.” She huffed.

I clenched my fists. I knew her comments weren’t about me. It had taken quite a bit of time, and Uncle Jack’s counsel, for me to see that. Growing up in Grandma Luna’s house, my mom was the odd duck. Grandma Luna was considered a hippie and defied all societal norms. Uncle Jack and Uncle Frank thrived in that environment. My mom rebelled against everything she thought was wrong with that lifestyle, especially the clothing choices. I know now that’s why Mom insisted on raising my brother and me far from the free-living, do-as-you-please mentality.

Mom hugged her purse tight to her chest as if she expected someone to run by and abscond with it. She practically tiptoed out of the booth and headed away. Most of my parents’ visit had been pleasant so far. With my perspective gained from Unkie’s advice I was better able to enjoy my time with them. Mom’s comments still landed hard with me, but I had gotten better at letting them go, not taking them personally.

Florence rejoined me at the table. “You handled that well, Tilly,” she said, her eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, I’m actually OK,” I replied. “With Uncle Jack’s advice to help me see things from my mom’s perspective, I’m able to have a lot more grace toward her.” I fidgeted with the pie utensils, rearranging them.

Florence gave me a quick squeeze. “It doesn’t make it hurt any less. But I’m proud of you.”

I hugged her back and leaned my head on her shoulder. I looked at the other pies being set out for the judging. I whispered to Florence, “I think we have a chance at a prize.”

She grinned, peering over my shoulder and mouthed, “Me too.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Mom quickly returning to our booth. She wildly waved one arm while continuing to clutch her purse close to her body. “Tilly, come quick! I think I saw a dead body!” she screamed.

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