Saturday, January 16, 2016

Plain Dead (An Amish Mystery)

Author:  Emma Miller
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9780758291769
Kensington Publishing
272 Pages
$12.68; $9.04 Amazon
December 29, 2015

Five Stars

When a newspaperman is murdered in the Amish community of Stone Mill, Pennsylvania, Rachel Mast digs up the dirt to find out who wanted to bury the lead...

Although she left her Old Order Amish ways in her youth, Rachel discovered corporate life in the English world to be complicated and unfulfilling.  Having returned to Stone Mill, she's happy to be running her own B&B.  But she's also learning - in more ways than one - that the past is not always so easily left behind.

After local newspaperman Bill Billingsly is found gagged and tied to his front porch, left to freeze overnight in a snowstorm, Detective Evan Parks - Rachel's beau - uncovers a file of scandalous information Billingsly intended to publish, including a record of Rachel pleading no contest to charges of corporate misconduct.  Though Evan is certain of her innocence, it's up to Rachel to find the real killer.  A closer examination of the victim's unpublished report leads Rachel to believe the Amish community is far from sinless.  But if she's not careful her obituary might be the next to appear in print...    

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Rachel Mast was born and raised Amish, but she chose for herself the English way of life.  This did not, however, cut her off from her family, since she did so before she was baptized.  She now owns a B&B among her own people in Stone Mill, Pennsylvania and is doing very well.

Trying to bring money to the town and her friends and family, she has organized a Winter Frolic, filled with arts and crafts from the Amish that has brought tourists to the town.  While she is making her way through the various booths, she spies the local newspaperman, Bill Billingsly.  She's been trying to reach him for days, and he's been avoiding her for just as long.  It seems he's been writing a gossip column about the locals, including the Amish, and it's been hurting her friends.  When she finally corners him, they have a heated argument about what he's been doing, and he threatens to put her in the next installment, having learned a secret from her past.

Later that night, Rachel walks to his home, intending to have it out with him.  She spies him through his front porch window, but losing her nerve, goes back home instead.  The next morning her paperboy Eddie runs down her street in terror, telling her that Bill is dead.  When Rachel joins the crowd gathering in front of his house, she sees that he is indeed dead - grotesquely left to die on the front of his own porch.

With her beau Detective Evan Parks heading the investigation, he uncovers part of her secret, and though he knows she's innocent of the murder, he lists her as a person of interest, along with others.  This doesn't help their relationship any - they have recently become engaged - and Evan is hurt that Rachel never told him this part of her past.  Unfortunately, it causes a rift and makes Rachel question whether she made the right decision in accepting Evan's proposal of marriage.

Then Rachel spots something at the crime scene that makes her think there is perhaps a member of the Plain people that could have just as much - if not more - to hide than she ever had, and while she wouldn't be willing to kill to keep her secret, someone else would in order to keep theirs.

The more Rachel searches for a killer, the more she realizes that she not only could be hurting herself in the long run, but her friends and family as well.  And even though she knows she should listen to Evan and stay out of the investigation, she believes he's not taking her seriously when she tells him things that could be clues to the murderer, and so feels that she needs to take the actions she does.  Unfortunately, she spends time jumping to conclusions that aren't necessarily true and only serves to put her in danger.

This is the third book in the series, following Plain Murder and Plain Killing, and in my opinion, the best so far.  While I enjoyed the first two, in this third one Rachel is becoming more sure of herself and finally moving forward with her life and with Evan.  While, as I mentioned above, she does spend time hastily moving from one conclusion to the next, she truly believes that what she's doing is right, and that she knows who the killer is.

Ms. Miller leads a merry chase on this one, and Rachel is doing her best to find the killer without alienating any of her own people.  Again in this book, as the last, she has the help of her devoted cousin Mary Aaron, who does her best to keep Rachel from raising too many hackles among the Amish when she starts asking questions.

All in all, I was pleased with the book and satisfied with the outcome.  Ms. Miller has at last found her voice in this third Amish Mystery.  Highly recommended.



More on Emma Miller's books:  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/m/emma-miller/
                                                                        

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