Stormy police chief stars in newest Amish mystery
Chloe Humphrey’s first Christmas celebration with her beau, Timothy Troyer, is starting to look promising when they take a romantic sleigh ride out in the country and he gives her a beautiful jewelry box, and then … they find a body. This is the beginning of A Plain Disappearance by Tallmadge author Amanda Flower, third in the Appleseed Creek mystery series.
The disappearance is known only to the young woman’s family, and her body is found before anyone else really knew she was missing. Timothy recognizes her as Katie Lambright, whose little sister was best friends with Timothy’s own little sister.
As police Chief Greta Rose tells Chloe, “You are the common denominator in every murder case on my books.” Chloe is on a first-name basis with Chief Greta by now, but still fears her. Chief Greta is one of Flower’s best characters: she’s autocratic, but much of it is bluster. With a three-person police force in tiny Appleseed Creek, Greta thinks she’s canny by asking Chloe to use her “in” with the Amish community to gather intel on the case — Timothy and his sister Becky, Chloe’s housemate, were formerly Amish, and Chloe is very friendly with the Troyer family.
With Chloe as the “Amish whisperer,” the three civilians follow up on clues and question witnesses, which dismays Timothy when evidence seems to point to someone he respects.
While the Amish community is based on separateness, the family of the dead girl is downright unsociable, refusing all gestures of sympathy and cutting off Timothy’s sister from contact with her friend.
Grandfather Zook, Flower’s other most memorable character, is again a delightful, sprightly presence with great humor.
A Plain Disappearance (336 pages, softcover) costs $14.99 from B&H Books. Amanda Flower also released Andi Unexpected, a mystery for children, in September. Under the name Isabella Alan, she writes the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries, and under her own name, the India Hayes Mysteries.
Final ‘Charm’ novel
Charm, Ohio, is a tiny village in Holmes County, with a sizable Amish population. It would make sense for Mary Ellis to set A Little Bit of Charm, the final book in her New Beginnings series, there. But this Charm is a fictional place in Kentucky.
The series is about three Pennsylvania sisters who are separated after their parents’ death in a house fire. In Living in Harmony, Amy settles in an ultraconservative district in Maine, and in Love Comes to Paradise, Nora settles in Missouri. In Charm, Rachel King decides to move in with her cousin, who runs an organic chicken farm in Kentucky, where she hopes to fulfill her lifelong dream of working with horses.
Rachel soon finds a part-time job as a tour guide at a neighboring horse farm run by the Brady family, who have been feeling the pinch of the recession but have decided to go for broke, literally, taking out a risky loan to hire a professional trainer for their very promising yearling.
Rachel is ecstatic about her job, except for her doubts about son Jake, who falls for her quickly. Jake is all she is looking for in a man — but he’s not Amish. Although Rachel makes it clear to Jake that she will not date outside her faith, when she meets “dull as a spoon” Reuben and pushy John, Jake starts looking better and better.
There is a challenging subplot involving a county health worker who is trying to alert local Amish and Mennonite families to a case of polio in the community. Her job is to encourage them to be immunized, while still respecting their beliefs.
A Little Bit of Charm (334 pages, softcover) costs $13.99 from Harvest House Publishers.
Barberton Public Library (602 W. Park Ave.) — Brimfield Chief David Oliver talks about and signs his book No Mopes Allowed, 6-7:30 p.m. Monday.
Portage County District Library (Randolph branch, 1639 state Route 44) — Bev Shaffer talks about and signs her new cookbook Chocolate Desserts to Die For!, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, in the community center behind the library. Registrations requested; call 330-325-7003.
Reed Memorial Library (167 E. Main St., Ravenna) — Joanna Wilson, author of ’Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials and Made-for-TV Movies, talks about seasonal television, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Akron-Summit County Main Library (60 S. High St.) — Novelist Colum McCann (Let the Great World Spin won the 2009 National Book Award for fiction) appears as part of the Main Event Speaker Series, 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.) — Howard P. Willens, who was an investigator for the Warren Commission, is interviewed by WCPN (90.3-FM) executive editor David Molpus about his book History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation Into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, followed by a signing and reception, 7 p.m. Wednesday. Register at 330-653-6658.
Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Cinda Williams Chima signs The Enchanter Heir, fourth in her fantasy series for teen readers, and her Seven Realms epic series, 7-8 p.m. Wednesday.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Melissa Ivey-Staehli reads from and signs her storybooks I Love You to the Moon and Charlie’s Gingerbread House, 11 a.m. Saturday; Bev Shaffer talks about and signs Chocolate Desserts to Die For!, 1-3 p.m. Saturday.
Barnes & Noble (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake) — Gail Bellamy discusses and signs Cleveland Christmas Memories, 1 p.m. Saturday; Howard P. Willens talks about and signs History Will Prove Us Right, 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Kent Free Library (312 W. Main St.) — A Local Author Book Expo features Debbie Alferio, G.T. Anders, Edwin Bixenstine, Mike Bryson, Sharon R. Hunter, Radford Lee, Dianne Lenihan and Ronald Reed, 2-3 p.m. Saturday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Chagrin Falls branch, 100 E. Orange St.) — Andrew R. Thomas, author (with Paul N. Thomarios) of The Final Journey of the Saturn V, talks about the restoration of the Saturn V SA-514 rocket, 2-3 p.m. Saturday.