I'm going to start recommending cozy mysteries when readers want books with complex characters. Some of the authors are doing a wonderful job lately of creating characters with complicated motives and lives. Laura Bradford's Amish mysteries are so much more than light whodunnits. In her latest, Assaulted Pretzel, a murder turns a small community upside down, and life won't be right until a killer is found. Murder upsets the natural order of things.
After her divorce, Claire Weatherly arrived in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, moved in with her aunt at her inn, Sleep Heavenly, and then opened a gift shop, Heavenly Treausres. She's only been there eight months, but she's come to love the Amish people who live and work there. And, she's eager to attend the Amish Food Festival. She even drags her friend, Jakob Fisher, to the festival, although the police detective is uncomfortable there since he was once Amish. Even his family is not allowed to talk to him since he left the Amish church and lifestyle after being baptized. In this case, though, it's fortunate Jakob is there when a man's body is discovered at the festival.
Rob Karble's death casts suspicion on a few men in the Amish community. There was a paper circulating at the festival saying the toymaker was going to renege on his promise to sell Amish wooden toys. He was still going to sell the toys, but they would be mass-produced, taking much-needed work away from the men in the community who made toys for a living. And, one of those men was Jakob's brother.
Karble's death upsets the natural order in Heavenly. Sleep Heavenly is in turmoil because Karble and his wife were guests there. With Claire's aunt upset, the Amish as suspects, and Claire's employee worried, it's natural for Claire to step in and ask a few questions. "People she cared about were hurting." People talk to her when they can't always talk to Jakob. However, she's an amateur sleuth who doesn't place herself in danger, and turns to the police at the appropriate time. Claire is a level-headed woman.
However, she's not as level-headed when it comes to romantic relationships. After the failure of her marriage, she can't trust her feelings. Jakob makes her feel protected, but so does Benjamin Miller, an Amish widower who takes the time to listen carefully to her. These friendships, with potential for more, are an added bonus in these books. But, the nature of either of these relationships is complicated by the Amish culture.
Bradford is adept at creating characters that readers will care about. Her books are fascinating, with the combination of mystery, Amish culture, and relationships. The cute title, Assaulted Pretzel, might catch a reader's eye. But, readers will return because the books are carefully crafted and well-written, with a charming setting and likable characters. Claire Weatherly gets involved when people she cares about are hurting. We, too, want Claire and Jakob to find answers and restore peace to Heavenly. Readers have faith that order will be restored to the Amish community once a murderer is found in Assaulted Pretzel.
Laura Bradford's website is www.laurabradford.com
Assaulted Pretzel by Laura Bradford. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425252000 (paperback), 278p.
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