Guest Post: Meet Librarian Helene Greenberg (and Diogi!) by Amy Pershing

Beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is known for seafood, sand, surf and now … murder. – A Side of Murder (A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery) by Amy Pershing 3/8

 Meet Librarian Helene Greenberg (and Diogi!)
by Amy Pershing

Greetings. My name is Helene Greenberg.   I’m here to welcome you to the charming Cape Cod town of Fair Harbor, Massachusetts, population, 6,798.  

Actually, 6,797.  Now.

I’m the town librarian. I am 60-ish with a mane of curly silver hair that I don’t even try to tame, and a penchant for t-shirts that say things like “Don’t judge my journey.” But more to the point, I am Samantha Barnes’ next door neighbor.  Yes, that Samantha Barnes.

Samantha Barnes the up-and-coming New York chef now notorious for that very unfortunate YouTube video in which she and her very unfortunate choice of husband mixed it up in a kind of chef fencing match. (Which she won, I’m pleased to say.) That Samantha Barnes who, when she found she’d inherited her Aunt Ida’s house on the Cape, retreated home to Fair Harbor, got a job writing restaurant reviews and, on her first assignment, promptly found a dead body. Sigh.

I first met Sam the day she arrived at Ida’s house, which was the kind of place that realtors describe as “needing work” when they mean “it’s a wreck.”  I’d heard voices from the other side of the yew hedge that separates our houses and immediately headed over to see if my new neighbor had finally arrived.  As I came through the gap in the hedge, I saw my organic farmer friend, Miles Tanner, and a trim young woman with blond hair whom I later learned was Sam’s best friend from childhood, Jenny Singleton.  

But mostly I saw Sam.  Because Sam is hard to miss. 

Sam stands six feet one and a half inches in her stocking feet, six-two and a half in her chef’s clogs.  She claims she’s not exactly beautiful but, as she puts it, she cleans up nice. When she’s not wearing old jeans and ratty sweaters (which is most of the time) she has a weakness for floaty dresses and dangly earrings.  That day it was old jeans and a ratty sweater.

As I approached I heard Jenny say, “What a pile of doo doo.” Or words to that effect.

“Not really,” I said as I walked up behind them.  “It just needs some love.”

“Helene!” Miles said, “Where on earth did you spring from?”

“I live next door, you big dope.” I said, smacking him lightly on the arm. “I thought I’d come over, see if I could help.”

Miles remembered his manners.  “Helene, this is Samantha Barnes. Sam to her friends. She is the new owner of this charming property. Sam, this is Helene Greenberg, your neighbor and  the town librarian.”  

Sam blinked.  I could almost see her thinking, Really? Because you look like no librarian I ever met before. 

What she said instead was “How do you do?” 

“I’m great,” I said.  “And I’m very happy to meet you.  And I’ve got a surprise for you.”

I put two fingers to my mouth and let out an ear-splitting whistle. A blur of fur came flying up the steep path that led down to the salt pond overlooked by the house. Then there was a confused impression of a wet nose and large pink tongue in Sam’s face and enormous muddy paws on her chest. 

I will give the girl credit. She knew how this was supposed to work.

“Down!” she shouted.  Nothing.  The dog continued to lick her to death.

“Down!” Miles shouted, also to no avail.

“Down, Diogi,” I said calmly, holding up a dog treat.  

In a nanosecond, Diogi turned his attention to me and stood gazing fixedly at the treat. Diogi (pronounced dee-OH-gee) is your typical Cape Cod mutt, part yellow lab, part whatever.  Great water dogs, good with kids, gentle. He is remarkable in no way except for his size.  He is ginormous.  

“You’ll have to forgive his manners,” I said.  “He’s still just a puppy,”

“You mean he’s going to get bigger?”  Sam yelped.

“Oh yes,” I said. “He’s still just a baby.  But he’s a fast learner.” 

I handed her a dog treat. “Tell him to sit. Diogi will do anything for a treat.”  

“Thank you,” Sam said, taking the treat gingerly just in case Diogi got over-excited and jumped her again. “That’s an … unusual … name.” 

“It’s a joke,” I said, laughing. “Dee, oh, gee.  D, O, G. Get it? Dog! D, O, G!” 

Sam laughed and held up the treat. 

“Sit, Diogi,” she said in a firm voice. Diogi ignored the command, instead leaning against her leg with all his considerable weight. She gave him the treat anyway.

“I think your dog needs some more training,” she said to me. 

“Well, we’re working on that,” I acknowledged.  “But he’s not my dog.” 

“Whose dog is he?” Sam asked.  

“Why, he’s yours, Sam,” I said, as if the answer was obvious. “Diogi comes with the house.”


Samantha Barnes was always a foodie.  And when the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America) came calling, she happily traded in Cape Cod for the Big Apple.  But then the rising young chef’s clash with another chef (her ex!) boils over and goes viral. So when Sam inherits a house on the Cape and lands a job writing restaurant reviews, it seems like the perfect pairing. What could go wrong? Well, as it turns out, a lot.

The dilapidated house comes with an enormous puppy. Her new boss is, well, bossy.  And the town’s harbor master is none other than her first love.  Nonetheless, Sam’s looking forward to reviewing the Bayview Grill—and indeed the seafood chowder is divine. But the body in the pond outside the eatery was not on the menu. Sam is certain this is murder. But as she begins to stir the pot, is she creating a recipe for her own untimely demise?

Buy Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Booksh op.org – Books A Million – Indiebound – Target – Hudson Booksellers – Powells

Reviews:

“Cape Cod provides a stunning background for a debut that offers the ideal combination of mystery, romance, and recipes.” Kirkus Reviews

“An exquisite Cape Cod setting, a shamed but resilient chef, murderous secrets, and a long-buried but still steaming romance… Amy Pershing’s debut mystery will leave you longing for a seaside vacation, complete with fried clams and the next book in her charming series.” Lucy Burdette, national bestselling author of THE KEY LIME CRIME

“This is one of the freshest, funniest murder mysteries I’ve ever read. I fell absolutely in love with Samantha Barnes — the brave, sarcastic, crime-solving, relatable heroine we’ve all been waiting for. A Side of Murder is a rich, satisfying meal that delights from beginning to end, and Amy Pershing is a wonderful and clever author.” Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times bestselling author of EAT PRAY LOVE and CITY OF GIRLS

“A delicious mystery lovingly set in Cape Cod featuring a cast of charming characters. Amy Pershing writes with a fresh fun voice that will delight cozy fans. Chef turned restaurant critic Samantha Barnes proves a clever sleuth whose helpful cooking tips will be a big hit with culinary readers.” Krista Davis, New York Times bestselling author of the DOMESTIC DIVA mysteries

A Sampling of A Side of Murder
by Amy Pershing

“Okay, so here’s how it’s gonna go down.” 

I looked sternly at my dining companions, who were eyeing me warily over the rims of their wine glasses.  They were not used to me looking at them sternly. 

“We order one meat, one vegetarian, one seafood and one pasta entree.”

“Pasta doesn’t count as vegetarian?”

That was Jenny, a mother of three with the body of a sixteen-year-old that she proudly claims is the result of her dedicated meat-and-potatoes-only diet. She was probably worried that I was going to make her order eggplant.

“No.  Pasta doesn’t count as vegetarian,” I explained.  “Some restaurants like to think it counts as vegetarian, but that’s how vegetarians get fat.  That and too much cheese.  No, a real vegetarian entrée is about vegetables.  Maybe with grains or legumes, but the focus is on vegetables, like a ratatouille.”

“Sorry I asked,” Jenny muttered to Miles, who was sitting next to her and had been quietly entertaining himself by checking out the other patrons at the Bayview Grille. “What’s a legume anyway?” she asked him.

Miles looked at her like she’d just arrived from Mars. Miles is a farmer.  What he doesn’t know about legumes isn’t worth knowing.  “Beans, lentils, chickpeas, that kind of thing,” he said. “How do you not know that?”

Jenny shuddered.  “I don’t eat ‘that kind of thing.’ ”

I tried to continue with their instructions.  “Appetizers can be anything you like…”

“Well, hallelujah,” Miles said.  He poked Jenny in the side with one massive elbow, almost knocking her off her chair.  “I’d like that cutie pie over there at the bar.”

I ignored him. 

“Anything you like,” I repeated, “but it needs to make sense with your entrée.”

“I’m lost,” said Helene, running a ring-bejeweled hand through her mane of silver curls.  Helene was Fair Haven’s new librarian. I’d known her exactly 24 hours and couldn’t imagine anyone less like a librarian.

“I’ve been eating out for 40 years,” she said, “and I never once worried if my appetizer made sense with my entrée.  I don’t even know what that means.”

I sighed.  Well, no one had ever said writing restaurant reviews for the Cape Cod Clarion was going to be easy. Actually, I reflected, that wasn’t true.  I was the one who had said it would be easy.

I tried to clarify. “It means that if you’re having the hanger steak for your entrée…”

“That’s mine!” Jenny said, suddenly all in.  “I call I claim the hanger steak.”

I call I claim? What is she, six?

“And a half dozen Wellfleet oysters to start,” she added.

Jenny always had oysters to start.  And, as these were Wellfleet oysters, which are universally acknowledged to be the best on the Cape (and all Cape Cod oysters are awesome), I was surprised she wasn’t starting with a dozen.

“That’s fine,” I said.  “A classic pairing.”

I turned back to Helene.  “If, like Jenny, you’re having the hanger steak,” I explained, “you don’t want to order the barbeque sliders as a starter.”

She nodded thoughtfully.  At least Helene was taking this seriously.  But then she ruined it by saying, “Actually, barbeque followed by steak sounds yummy.”

I gave up.

“I’ll order for all of you,” I announced.  “And once we get our food and you’ve had a chance to taste and consider your choices, I will discretely exchange plates with each of you, one by one, and sample each dish.  Then we’ll discretely switch back again. We’ll go clockwise around the table, starting with Helene.” 

“I’m lost again,” Helene fake-whispered to Miles.

“Don’t you worry, honey,” he said.  “Wait until she gets a glass or two of wine into her.  Then we can do whatever we want.”

He grinned at me, looking exactly like the overgrown five-year-old he was.  If five year olds had big, hairy lumberjack beards.

I began to worry for real.  My dining companions were definitely not taking my first foray into restaurant reviewing seriously enough.  And Miles was right about the two glasses of wine.  I was a notoriously cheap date.  But I was also the night’s designated driver, so no worries there.

“No wine for me,” I said firmly, more to myself than to Miles.  “Even if it kills me.”

A poor choice of words, as it turned out.


Amy Pershing is a lifelong mystery lover and wordsmith who spent every summer of her childhood on Cape Cod. In her previous incarnations she was an assistant editor at Viking Penguin, a restaurant reviewer for Playbill magazine’s Restaurant Reporter, and a journalist at the Rome (Italy) Daily American before eventually going on to lead employee communications at a global bank. A few years ago (with the final college tuition bill paid), she waved goodbye to Wall Street in order to write full time (and spend more time sailing on Cape Cod!). A Side of Murder is the first book in the Cape Cod Foodie mystery series featuring Samantha Barnes, a disgraced but resilient ex-chef and the world’s most reluctant YouTube star. While Sam tries to balance her new job as the local paper’s “Cape Cod Foodie” with her complicated love life, a posse of just-slightly-odd friends, a falling-down house and a ginormous puppy, she also discovers a new talent – a propensity for falling over dead bodies … and for solving crime.


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