Thursday, January 05, 2017

Kingdom Come - Jane Jensen

Kingdom Come
An Elizabeth Harris Mystery
Jane Jensen
Berkley Prime Crime


Detective Elizabeth Harris grew up around Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Later, she left for the bright lights of New York and spent ten years with the NYPD.  Her love for the city died when her husband was senselessly gunned down during a robbery.  It felt right to move back to Pennsylvania, and she brings her years of experience with her.  Lancaster County is home to a large community of Amish, who live and work very much the same way their forefathers did.  They drive buggies into town, dress very plainly, and are still an insular community.  They don’t want the “English” (anyone who is not Amish) to influence their children or way of life.

One early morning in the depth of winter, Elizabeth is called to an Amish farm.  That alone is highly unusual; what she finds there is even more so.   A young boy, going into the barn to milk the cows, discovered the body of a young woman.  She’s beautiful, she’s definitely English, and she’s dead.  How could she possibly have ended up in the barn?  The Amish swear they don’t know who she is.  In fact, it takes a few days to identify the girl.  Checking her record, they find that she filled out a Missing Person report on a friend, just a few months before her death.  That friend, an Amish girl, is still missing.

This novel offers a fascinating and nicely balanced look into the life of the Amish.  The author takes care to present each person as an individual, not just a cardboard cutout, spouting typical facts about Amish life.  Each character seems to be a real person, dealing with the English with varying levels of belief, warmth, or suspicion.  Some are aggressively resistant to even speaking to the English, especially a woman who carries a gun.  Some are simply curious.  One man, a widower, is interested in Elizabeth on a personal level.   She’s surprised to find herself returning that interest.  This subplot is something I was initially reluctant to go along with; it just seemed so clichéd.  But, I have to admit, the author did a great job of developing both characters in ways that made the whole thing believable.

Elizabeth, despite her boss’ protests to the contrary, is convinced that the murderer must be part of the Amish community.  She has no real hard evidence, just circumstances and her gut.  Transporting the body to the barn, at night, in the dead of winter, for example, is something that must have been done by someone who knew the farms’ layouts.  The police start with not much evidence.  Leads are slow to come, and the detectives get frustrated.  This all reads as very real in a place like Lancaster.  Elizabeth won’t give up, though, keeps working on both the English and Amish sides.  The eventual denouement is not quite what I thought it would be, but it was very satisfying.  And, as a final note, bravos to the Art Department for a perfect cover image, and for the map at the end of Chapter One that kept me on track with the neighborhood layout.

Rating: 8
January 2016

ISBN#  978-0-425-28289-2 (trade paperback)


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