Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Hearse and Buggy
Amish Mystery #1
Laura Bradford

Berkley Prime Crime
June 2012/ 978-0-425-25131-7
Mystery/Cozy/Amateur Sleuth

Reviewed by Laura Hinds

Author Laura Bradford also writes mysteries as Elizabeth Lynn Casey, penning the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries. I have reviewed some of them for, and was delighted when I got the opportunity to read the debut novel of her new Amish Mystery series. Needless to say, I began my reading and reviewing journey with high expectations. I am so happy to report that Hearse and Buggy not only met my expectations, but exceeded them.

Hearse and Buggy is set in the Amish country of Heavenly, Pennsylvania. Claire Weatherly has left behind her bad marriage and subsequent divorce, and the hectic pace of Manhattan. Settling down in Heavenly has been healing for Claire. She's living at her Aunt Diane's B&B, Sleep Heavenly, and has opened her own Amish specialty shop, Heavenly Treasures. Claire becomes fond of the Amish people she interacts with, and has learned more about their way of life than she could have previously imagined. Diane is always there to guide her, and to provide a shoulder to lean on.

When the previous owner of her store is murdered, Claire worries that some tenuous relationships may unravel. In particular, the obvious romantic feelings between her shop assistant, Esther and the young Eli Fisher. Claire fights her strong attraction to Benjamin Miller, as well as the magnetic pull she feels for Police Officer Jakob Fisher, who is a shunned Amish because he left home and family behind in Heavenly to join the police force. Jakob has returned to serve as an officer in Heavenly, and he faces the difficult task of considering one of Heavenly's own Amish as the potential murderer.

Hearse and Buggy is a present day mystery, but the tone, set by the Amish way of life, and slower, more reflective pacing, brings forth a feeling of an easier time; a time and place where crime is virtually unheard of, and murder scarcer than hen's teeth. The mixture of Amish traditions and the English way are evident throughout the story. The town has both cobblestone roads and smooth paved streets. The shops draw tourists, as does Diane's bed and breakfast. The Amish work hard as is their way. People are generally honest, and there is little evidence of culture clash, mainly because of respect for all. Walter Snow, the murder victim, was the exception; he had stolen the money due to the Amish families for their craft items that he sold on consignment in the shop. Indications point to a revenge killing.

Despite this being a murder mystery, I found comfort in this book. The murder is off the page, and the description of what happened minimal. The interplay of the characters, as well as the description of their emotions and physical attributes is woven seamlessly.

From cover to cover, I enjoyed this book immensely. The cover art is beautiful, even incorporating some spilled and broken milk bottles, representing an incident in the story. When I studied the cover after reading the book, I was struck by the thought that the Amish wouldn't cry over the spilled milk. They would just clean it up and get on with their work. I had learned well from the Amish of Heavenly.

Heavenly, Pennsylvania sounds like a peaceful place to visit. Isn't it wonderful that we, the readers, get to visit whenever we'd like? Kudos to Laura Bradford for the fabulous job she has done of creating a new cozy town, and inhabitants that I've already learned to love.

Hands down Hearse and Buggy is a mystery debut cozy lovers will flock to.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Hearse and Buggy #1
Assaulted Pretzel #2
Shunned and Dangerous #3
Suspendered Sentence #4
A Churn for the Worse #5
Just Plain Murder #6

Reviewed 2012