Monday, June 18, 2012

Hearse And Buggy - Laura Bradford

Hearse And Buggy
An Amish Mystery
Laura Bradford
Berkley Prime Crime
Claire Weatherly has, admittedly, made several bad choices in her life.  Getting married to her ex was one of them.  Trying to live in the fast-paced New York City life was another.  The best decision she ever made was moving to Heavenly, PA, to stay with her Aunt Diane, who runs a bed and breakfast.  Heavenly is a mix of Amish and English (non-Amish) and life there is slow and simple.  After months of savoring the simple life, and realizing she loves it, Claire decided to open a shop called Heavenly Treasures and stay.
It’s fortunate for Claire that her Aunt Diane is so well known and liked by the local Amish.  The previous tenant in Claire’s store space was English, and a crook.  Walter Snow sold hand-crafted furniture from the Amish, then left town with the money.  The Amish don’t believe in violence, but the entire community felt the sting of that betrayal.  Even the family of Claire’s employee, Esther, was affected.
Now there’s another uncharacteristic problem along Lighted Way, the road that runs between the Amish and English communities.  Someone is vandalizing the Amish-owned bake shop next door to Heavenly Treasures.  At first, the acts seem like pranks.  Then Walter Snow is found dead behind Claire’s shop.  He was strangled.  Although the Amish are pacifists, the list of Amish suspects is fairly long and includes Eli, the brother of the bake shop owner.  Esther, who is in love with Eli, but constrained by custom against saying anything to him, begs Claire to help.

This is the first in what promises to be a long and successful series.  The atmosphere is evoked so clearly that I feel I’ve walked down Lighted Way.  The contrast between English and Amish is presented as fact, and not played for any kind of humor or derision.  The town exists because the two peoples live side by side, each respecting the other.  The presence of Jakob Fisher, a detective recently returned to the town, only underscores this.  Jakob is a member of an Amish family, but left after his baptism.  This, to the Amish, is unforgivable.  His reason for leaving was sound – he felt called to police work, something disallowed by the Amish – but he will remain separated from the Amish for the rest of this life, shunned by even his own family members. 
Because she’s English, Claire wants to help Jakob and his family reconnect, but rules are rules, as her Aunt Diane sadly reminds her.  Seeing both sides of the question makes for a very sympathetic character and really draws in the reader.  The solution to the mystery is fairly easy to see, but the background and characters more than make up for that.  Here’s hoping for many returns to Heavenly in the future.
Rating: 7 ½
June 2012
ISBN# 978-0-425-25131-7


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