I followed Ruth into the kitchen to see a plump woman sitting at her table with a cup of tea and a plate of sugar cookies. She looked to be in her early sixties. With her sour expression and her gray hair in a bun, she reminded me of the portrait of Queen Victoria my Nan kept in the parlor.
What surprised me most was how small she was. She couldn’t have been more than five feet tall.
Her Majesty in the flesh.
“Are you kiddin’ me, hon? This is the guy who’s gonna save my bacon?”
“Nice to meet you, too,” I said. “Thanks for inviting me over, Ruth. I’d best be on my way now.”
“Ian, there’s no need to be sarcastic,” Ruth said. “She didn’t mean any harm. It’s just her way.”
“The hell I didn’t,” Her Majesty retorted. “He shows up looking like he came in last in a marathon for geriatrics and you expect me to believe he can actually help me with this bottom-of-the-pickle-barrel situation I’m in? Let him crawl back under whatever rock he came from.”
“Listen, Melinda. You asked for my help and I got you the best in the business. Ian came over here on what I’d consider his day off. We took him away from time with his sons. You owe him an apology. Right now, he’s your best chance for getting out of that pickle barrel.”
Her Majesty said nothing and slurped her tea.
“I’ll make the introductions, shall I?” Ruth continued. “Ian Dodge, this is Melinda Barnes, otherwise known as Laura Lane, the Food Queen. Melinda, this is private investigator, Ian Dodge.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Melinda mumbled, wiping cookie crumbs from her mouth.
“Likewise,” I said. “So what is this pickle you find yourself in?”
“Ruth, get Ian here a cup of tea. And a towel to wipe off some of that sweat.”
“I’ll go freshen up,” I said. and made my way to the powder room at the front of the house. I could tell they were talking about me, but with the water running I couldn’t make out what they were saying. After I’d removed the worst of the grime with soap and water, I returned to the Court of the Food Queen.
“That’s better,” Melinda said. “Have a seat. Now take a look at this and tell me what you think.”
She ducked under the table for her briefcase and pulled out an envelope with the words LAURA LANE scrawled on the front in black marker.
“I found this in my dressing room yesterday,” she said. “Believe me, heads rolled because of it. Secure set, my foot.”
I opened it to find copies of two newspaper clippings and a handwritten note. Both dated back to 1973. One was headlined Town Comes to Aid of Sick Girl and the other was Relying on the Kindness of Strangers–Couple Cons Hundreds Out of Thousands. The note read simply, ‘Contact me here,’ followed by a phone number.
About the Book
Title: Pork Pies
Author: Judy Nichols
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Crusty British transplant Ian Dodge is back on the beat, this time in the service of Her Majesty, otherwise known as Laura Lane, the Food Queen, star of a popular TV cooking show. A blackmailer has threatened to expose her sordid past as a con artist, so she turns to Ian Dodge to get it sorted.
When her blackmailer is found stabbed to death in his hotel room, Her Majesty is the prime suspect. It’s Ian’s job to untangle a web of deception and pork pies (lies) to find the real culprit, all the while dealing with the antics of his twin sons, Jesse and Mac.
Judy Nichols grew up in a Batavia, Ohio a small town twenty miles east of Cincinnati and eventually found herself living in Aurora, Indiana, a small town twenty miles west of Cincinnati. She would be there still if GE Aircraft hadn’t made her husband Nigel an offer he couldn’t refuse– a chance to live near the ocean with GE footing the bill for moving expenses.
So now she lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
She started her novel Caviar Dreams while her daughter was napping one day. Five years later it was finished. The biggest challenge arrived once her daughter stopped taking naps and eventually lost interest in watching the “Toy Story” video.
Judy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University. She has been a newspaper reporter, a teacher, a temporary office worker, a customer service representative, and currently stay-at-home mom with way too much time on her hands. (And never mind that her daughter has graduated from college and lives in San Diego).
In April of 2012, Judy achieved her lifelong goal of appearing on the quiz show “Jeopardy!” She was a two day champion winning a total of $46,500 and the distinction of being officially named the smartest person in a room full of very smart people.
She has earned only two awards in her lifetime. Neither of them has anything to do with writing, but she is immensely proud of them nonetheless. Adia Temporary Agency presented her with the “Temp of the Month” award for March, 1987 and The Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy gave her a Volunteer Appreciation Award in 1991.
Her experience with The Nature Conservancy inspired her second novel Tree Huggers, about a single mom reporter covering the deadly clash between an unscrupulous developer and a militant environmentalists, published in 2008 She followed it up with a sequel in 2014 called The Reason for the Season.
Her latest book Pork Pies is the latest in her Ian Dodge mystery series. Ian is a British national, living in a small town in rural North Carolina and stubbornly hanging on to every shred of his Britishness. Any resemblance to Ian Dodge and her own prickly British husband is purely intentional. Other books in the series are Sportsman’s Bet and Trouble and Strife.
Currently, Judy is a volunteer with Phoenix Hometown Hires, a non profit group that helps people find meaningful work.
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