You have found the site of private investigator Sally Jo Pitts whose sleuthing and other experiences in working with all kinds of people has led to writing sweet romance and private investigator mysteries. You will find my books listed under the books tab, Romance Books and Mystery Books.

I delve into a variety of topics on the website. Currently, I am investigating food used in novels found under the Investigator’s Blog. Each post is accompanied by a recipe found under Investigatin’ Recipes.

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Recent Posts

Zoe M. McCarthy's Above the Lake Food Scene and Recipe
5/1/2023 5:00:00 AM BY Sally Jo Pitts

Investigating Food Used in Novels


This month’s food scene and recipe come from Zoe M. McCarthy’s contemporary romance, Above the Lake.  

Hero Nathan Gallagher (who stutters) is the Thanksgiving dinner guest of heroine Megan Carrigan who stayed with Nathan after his plane crashed until help arrived.

The stage is set by the author to portray an uncomfortable group of six at dinner.

Here is a portion of the scene after Megan’s father asks everyone to say what they are thankful for:

… I’m thankful for my children, husband, and mincemeat pie.” She tittered. “Had to go to three grocery stores before I found a jar of mincemeat.”

 Dad swallowed. “You’re on, Megan.”

 “I’m thankful for and loving my new design job and helping in the preschool Sunday school class.” She bit her lips together. What would Nathan say?

Dad directed his fork toward Nathan. “What are you thankful for, Nathan?” Nathan turned to Mom. “Th-thankful for th-this delicious m-meal.”

Mom suspended her fork holding soupy green beans and stared at Nathan. “Glad you could join us.”

Dad stabbed a turkey morsel. “Have your injuries healed, Nathan?”

 “All g-g-good.” Dad’s eyelids flickered. “Megan tells us you plan to replace the plane.”

 “I d-do.” Nathan dug into his stuffing as if all were fine.

 Mom took a breath to speak.

Megan grabbed her roll. “Erin, what do you plan to major in?” Anything to take Mom and Dad’s attention off Nathan.

Erin pulled her gaze from Nathan. “I’m not sure, but I think I want to major in accounting.”

“That’s a good—”

“Nathan, where are you from?” Mom paused in cutting her turkey slice and regarded Nathan.

Megan glanced at Nathan. Why hadn’t she asked Nathan where he lived as a boy?


“Are your parents still in Lynchburg?”


“Well, where are they?” Dad seemed peeved at Nathan’s short answers.

“My mother’s d-deceased.”

Dad’s expression softened. “Oh, sorry to hear that, Nathan.”

Mom swallowed. “And your father?”

“He’s in I-Independence.”

Her elbow on the table, Mom flourished a hand to the side. “That’s only about an hour and a half from here. Why aren’t you spending Thanksgiving with your father?”

Megan cringed. That was direct. But … after he’d turned down BJ and Glenda, why hadn’t he planned to spend Thanksgiving with his father? Nathan took in a breath, then let it out. “He’s in p-prison.”

Megan choked on a sip of tea.

Chris’s face lit up. “What’s he in for?”

“Chris!” Mom and Dad had spoken simultaneously, giving him The Look.

Chris and Erin stared at Nathan expectantly.

Mama Jane inched her eyes up to look at Nathan.

Mom and Dad glanced at each other, then shifted their eyes to study Nathan.

Why wasn’t Dad or Mom stopping the inquisition? Mom had already silenced her when she’d tried to turn the conversation to Erin.

Nathan focused on his plate. He placed his fork and knife on his plate, then raised his gaze to Chris. “Involuntary manslaughter.”

“Who’d he kill?”


 “My mother.”


An awkward situation!

But pie served at the dinner will  help!   Zoe shares with us a Mincemeat Pie recipe.

(Mincemeat is a combination of chopped dried fruits, spices, sugar, nuts, distilled spirits, a fat of some type and sometimes meat. The name is a carryover from 15th century England when mincemeat did indeed have meat in the mix; in fact, the whole point of mincemeat was to preserve meat with sugar and alcohol!)

It may sound like an odd mixture, but my grandmother and Zoe’s grandmother baked these pies for Thanksgiving. The pie is delicious and the spices make it smell wonderful.

                                         Mincemeat Pie

For the recipe go to Investigatin’ Recipes above under Investigator’s blog or Click Here.

More about Above the Lake:

She looks up from the lake. He’s plummeting into the forest.

A widow of three years, Megan Carrigan must decide between her current part-time job she loves, teaching preschoolers, and the full-time job of her dreams, becoming a graphic designer. So shortly before sunset, Megan kayaks toward a beautiful, peaceful, and secluded stretch on Hidden Valley Lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she contemplates answers to her life-affecting problems.

While the answer eludes Megan, small-plane transport pilot, Nathan Gallagher, flying his Skyhawk, loses engine power above the remote Hidden Valley Lake and races through his options to survive.

Neither Megan nor Nathan have considered romantic involvements, but now that he has crashed into her life, will that change?

                Zoe M. McCarthy


About the Author

A full-time writer and speaker, Zoe M. McCarthy, writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. Believing opposites distract, Zoe creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. When she’s not writing, Zoe enjoys her six grandchildren, teaching Bible studies, leading workshops on writing, knitting and crocheting shawls for a prayer shawl ministry, and canoeing. She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Zoe blogs regularly at www.zoemmccarthy.com.






Sarah Hamaker's Protecting Her Witness Food Scene and Recipe
4/1/2023 5:45:00 AM BY Sally Jo


Investigating Food Used in Novels


This month’s food scene and recipe come from Sarah Hamaker and her romantic suspense, Protecting Her Witness.

U.S. Marshal Chalissa Manning has been running from her past and God for most of her life. When she meets widower Titus Davis and his son, Sam, her well-built defenses begin to crumble. But someone is targeting Titus and Sam, and it’s up to Chalissa to both protect them and to find out who is behind the attacks.

Threats pile up but there is a break in the action when Chalissa brings take-out to Titus and Sam, who is autistic. Chalissa shows her skill in working with the special needs child in this food scene:

Sam trotted beside her as she made her way to the kitchen. “It smells good. What is it?”

“One of my favorites. Penne pasta with marinara sauce, parmesan, and meatballs.”

Sam’s eyes lit up. “I love meatballs!”

“Plus fresh broccoli, a Caesar salad, and garlic bread.”

She set the food on the counter.

“Ugh, salad and broccoli.” Sam made a face.

She smiled at the boy, then handed him her laptop case. “Put this in the living room for me, and I’ll tell you the special surprise I got for us.”

“Okay, but I’m not eating broccoli.”

“Ready for the surprise?”

He nodded. “What is it?”

“This.” She drew the final box from the bag and held it out to Sam. “Will you do the honors?”

A frown puckered his face. “What does that mean?”

“Oh, it means will you open the box to show the surprise.” She waited while he carefully removed the piece of tape holding the lid down, then raised the top.

“It’s chocolate cake. My favorite.” He reached inside the box, but she playfully snapped it closed on his fingers before he could take a swipe at the frosting.

Chalissa whisked the box away and put it on top of the fridge. “That’s what awaits you if you manage to eat your dinner,” she leaned closer to Sam, “and your broccoli.”

(This scene makes me crave chocolate cake!)  

Here is a pasta favorite Sarah Hamaker shares with us. For the recipe, go to Investigatin’ Recipes above under Investigator’s blog or click here.  

                                      Chalissa’s Easy-Peasy Pasta Dish


About the Author

Sarah Hamaker loves writing books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s written romantic suspense novels and nonfiction books, as well as stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes. As a writers coach, her heart is encouraging writers. She’s a member of ACFW; ACFW Virginia Chapter; and Faith, Hope and Love, as well as the president of Capital Christian Writers Fellowship. Her podcast, “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” can be found wherever you listen to podcasts. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband, four teenagers, a preschool foster child and three cats. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.








Novel Use of Food by Nora Roberts
2/28/2023 8:00:00 PM BY Sally Jo Pitts

Investigating Food Used in Novels

This month I’m featuring a food used by Nora Roberts in a scene from The Collector.

And the recipe uses a bit of green to celebrate the month of March and St. Patricks Day! 

About the Scene:

Heroine Lila Emerson meets hero, Ashton Archer as the result of witnessing a murder that involves his brother.

Author Roberts has Lila pour cooked pasta into a bowl and add pretty little tomatoes, glossy black olives, chopped fresh basil, rosemary, pepper and “cheats” by using bottled dressing. Through the question of why she considers purchased dressing as cheating, the conversation leads to more in-depth personal banter between the characters. 

The description of this simple salad adds a bit of comfort and relief to the setting since tensions have been running high.

Here is an easy pasta salad that sounds similar to the one concocted in the scene.

                                                Easy Pasta Salad

For the recipe, click here:


More about The Collector:

When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one...
Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Chalking up their intense attraction to the heat of the moment, Lila agrees to help Ash try to find out who murdered his brother and why. From the penthouses of Manhattan to grand Italian villas, their investigation draws them into a rarefied circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away and stolen; where what you possess is who you are; and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession...

Happy March reading!

© 2023 Sally Jo Pitts
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