Title: Murder Simply Brewed: An Amish Village Mystery
Author: Vanetta Chapman
Publisher: Zondervan (March 25, 2014)
Kindle Edition (print length: 358 pages)
Anyone who has enjoyed Amanda Flower's Appleseed Creek Mysteries should enjoy this book. This one is similar, in that both Murder and Appleseed Creek Mysteries are set in villages that include both Amish and non-Amish ("Englisch") businesses and customers; the cases in each are solved by amateur sleuths, which in Murder include Amber Wright, an Englischer and the manager of the Village, and Hannah, a young Amish woman who works in the quilt shop next door to the coffee shop.
The current book quickly engaged me. First unseemly event: the death of Ethan Gray inside his espresso shop in the Village. The police determine Ethan's death was due to natural causes, after a couple of "pranks," both on or bordering Amber's property, and each one carrying dire warnings out of the book of Daniel. Despite the ease with which the police dispose of the murder and "pranks," Amber finds them disquieting.
Amber goes with the police sergeant, Gordon, to visit Ethan's widow, only to face hostility and accusations that Amber caused the man's death. A most bizarre scene subsequently erupts at the viewing, when another woman loudly adds her own accusations against Amber. Amber learns the woman is Ethan's sister Patricia, who suffered severe brain damage from her drug use as a teenager, and that Ethan provided for her care for many years. But not until very late in the book do we learn why these two women blame Amber for the murder.
Tate Bowman, Amber's neighbor who alerted her to the first of the "pranks," which had occurred on the border between their two properties, becomes increasingly interested in her. After all, she demonstrated her ability to calm and lead one of Tate's two stubborn mules back into his barn, when he had been unable; she also clearly adored, was comfortable with and even named both animals. So when Tate observes the deteriorating scene at the viewing, he steps up and rescues Amber from the two women. Thus begins the friendship between two people who had been long-time neighbors, but didn't really know each other. From that point, Tate keeps a close, protective eye on Amber, and begins to assist her in figuring out what is really behind the "pranks," which aren't mere teenaged pranks, at all, and Ethan Gray's death.
Meanwhile, back at the Village, Amber has asked Hannah to replace Ethan in the espresso shop, which means a significant change for Hannah. Hannah is in her element in the quilt shop, but the espresso coffees draw the many tourists to meet their morning caffeine needs, and to visit the other shops. Hannah is hesitant, but Amber prevails, and Hannah soon finds that she enjoys creating new blends and interacting with the customers.
Along the way, she sees and hears things--seemingly minor things that just seem ... odd ... not quite right. These she reports to Amber, as they both begin filing away such mysteries, while additional upsets continue to occur in and around the Village. Even as clues begin to pile up, including letters written by Ethan in the days prior to his death, the local LEOs maintain nothing warrants further investigation. Only when Amber faces a true threat to her life, a fire-alarm is triggered at the Village, and a break-in occurs in the offices, do the police discover that the amateur sleuths had it right.
I completed my reading of Murder Simply Brewed in record time, for me. I had trouble finding good stopping places. I do like a good mystery, and this easy read met the requirements, for me. I also enjoyed the varying perspectives and the interactive roles of Amish and Englisch. I did think Chapman's police were negligent in refusing to follow up as troubles escalated, leaving it to the amateurs for too long. The romance developed quickly between Tate and Amber, because of the situations in which they found themselves and their joint efforts to solve the mysteries. I appreciated the author's handling of Tate's recognition that, having lost one wife in death, he did not want to waste time or play games.
The romance developing between Hannah and Jesse, on the other hand, provides a nice balance of young, budding love that will move more slowly, with the more mature, mid-life experience.
What I come down to is that I want Book 2, now! I highly recommend Murder Simply Brewed and give it five stars.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan as part of Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.