By Linda Castillo
An elderly Amish woman and her two granddaughters are picking up nuts near a former friend’s abandoned house when the woman sees something move inside the house.
A man she recognizes is inside, and although she fights to the best of her ability, he is armed with a knife and kills her.
When the two girls head toward the house to investigate shouts they have heard from that direction, the attacker kidnaps the 12-year-old, a special-needs girl, leaving the younger child behind.
Kate Burkholder, police chief in the small town, is called by the family to find the missing girl and embarks on a lengthy case with tentacles reaching into years past.
A woman with Amish roots, Kate left that sect as a young woman but is now back near where she grew up, with her knowledge of the language proving helpful in dealing with the plain folk around the area of Painter’s Mill, Ohio.
The murder is a particularly brutal one, with an enigmatic verse of Scripture, along with a vague description of the man by the young child, the only clues to the killer.
From original concerns the killer is a child predator, an investigation follows involving occurrences from years in the past and in an expanded area.
Kate and her lover, an FBI agent, attempt to find the missing girl and to make sense of the miss-matched clues to its cause.
They interview the Amish family, as well as others, and find all of them unwilling to divulge secrets that include pertinent information.
As time passes, Kate is able to obtain only bits and pieces that might lead to the girl’s whereabouts, but will they be in time to save the victim?
It’s the latest in Linda Castillo’s well-written series featuring Kate’s cases in Painter‘s Mill, Ohio, and I found it one of the best of these books to date.
By Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley Prime Crime
Despite the dismissal as “chick lit” by some reviewers of the books in Susan Wittig Albert’s 23-volume mystery series featuring China Bayles, it’s one I like well enough to have read through the years.
Apparently I’m not the only reader who disagrees with the self-styled, erudite reviewers’ snubs since over two scores of China’s adventures have been published, a sure indication a lot of people are buying them.
Imagine my surprise a few days ago, when I found one published in 2015 I couldn’t remember reading. It’s a bit different from her others, with a dual viewpoint, but if you’re a mystery reader, I think you’ll enjoy it.
China, a lawyer turned herb shop owner, and Mackenzie Chambers, a female game warden, “star” in the story, which involves the importation (legal and not so much) of exotic animals by “hunting ranches” in Texas.
If you haven’t read it, you will find many things to like when you do – information about herbs, concerns about the ethics of introducing species of plants and animals into the area, and a fast-paced story about Texas people who are both literate and unassuming.
Even though I was so late in doing so, I enjoyed reading it, and of course, I’m looking forward to learning more about China and her adventures.
Marriage in Secret
By Anne Gracie
The third in Ann Gracie’s “Marriage of Convenience” series, this one features Lady Rose Rutherford, who has finally agreed to enter a loveless marriage with a wealthy man, having decided she will never actually fall in love with anyone.
She has decided it’s time she had a child, so she picks from among several suitors and chooses the wealthy Duke of Everingham.
He is handsome, well-heeled and titled, but is no more in love with Rose than she is with him. It’s just time he married, Rose is beautiful and much sought-after, and it is time he had an heir.
They are standing before the minister to repeat their vows when Thomas Beresford, a former naval officer, now dirty and unshaven, suddenly enters the wedding chapel and interrupts the ceremony.
When she was just sixteen years old, Rose had been in love with Thomas and had married him secretly because of her family’s objections.
Their wedding had taken place just a couple of days before he left on a mission for his country, leaving her still unaware she was pregnant.
A few days afterward, his ship was sunk and Thomas was reported to have been among those lost at sea. Rose, who had been pregnant, lost the baby in a miscarriage.
She had never told her family or anyone else about their marriage. After all, her husband was supposed to be dead, so she saw no reason to do so.
It’s a light story with an interesting premise, and Anne Gracie does a good job in her version of what happens when a long-gone husband reappears at exactly the right (or wrong) time.