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Murder Tightly Knit: An Amish Village Mystery


Murder Tightly Knit: An Amish Village Mystery

Author Vannetta Chapman is most known for her Amish novels and, most recently, cozy Amish mysteries, first making a name for herself in this genre with the Shipshewana Mystery series. In early 2014, readers were introduced to An Amish Village Mystery series, set in a small Amish village in Middlebury, Indiana. While the backdrop is definitely “Amish Country,” there are several English characters incorporated as well.

Just released is the second book in this series, MURDER TIGHTLY KNIT. As any good mystery should, this one starts off with an intriguing crime. Owen Esch, a 17-year-old Amish boy, is shot to death while walking along the Pumkinvine Trail. What makes this crime unique is that Owen is not shot with a gun, but with a crossbow. When the police discover a cell phone next to his body indicating he died while making a call to The Cat’s Meow, the village yarn shop, that’s where the investigation begins.

The day of the murder, Hannah Troyer is on her way to work at A Simple Blend, the village coffee shop. She stops by The Cat’s Meow to buy some yarn, but the door is locked and the store owner, Mary, is nowhere in sight. Even though it is around lunchtime, this is odd, since village stores rarely lock their doors. When she spots a suspicious looking man behind the shop, Hannah is even more confused and senses something is amiss. She shakes it off and continues on to work. She later learns of Owen’s death and that the police suspect Mary is somehow involved.

"[T]he main characters are extremely likable, and the relationships between the Amish and English are engaging with natural, down-to-earth dialogue and a clear love and respect for each other."

Amber Wright is the village manager and has become close with Hannah and other members of this tightly knit community. When Amber hears about Owen, she is shocked. This is the second murder in Middlebury within the past year. What on earth has happened to their peaceful community?

Hannah’s boyfriend, Jesse, informs her that his brother, Andrew, who has temporarily left Middlebury and currently lives in Chicago, has returned home. The police do not think it is a coincidence that Andrew arrived at almost exactly the same time that Owen was killed. But Hannah, Jesse and Amber refuse to believe that Andrew is guilty. When evidence starts piling up against Jesse’s brother, Hannah and Amber decide to prove Andrew’s innocence by finding the real killer themselves.

The search for answers takes the police and the two amateur sleuths on a path that leads to the ISG --- the Indiana Survivalist Group --- an organization that is dedicated to planning and preparing for disaster by stockpiling for the future. This group is typically non-violent, but is the one consistent component to which Owen had a connection that keeps popping up in the investigation.

As Hannah and Amber get closer to solving the crime, it becomes painfully clear that somebody doesn’t approve of them snooping around. But that only makes the two women more determined to find the truth.

MURDER TIGHTLY KNIT is an entertaining read, although I will say I found that the plot became difficult to follow at times. There are many characters to keep track of, and the pacing was off now and then. In my opinion, the mystery could have been a little more tightly knit by moving at a quicker pace and integrating the actual culprit more consistently throughout the story. That said, the main characters are extremely likable, and the relationships between the Amish and English are engaging with natural, down-to-earth dialogue and a clear love and respect for each other. The ISG angle was clever and gives the reader a bit of food for thought in regards to the biblical balance between preparing excessively for the future and trusting God.

As far as cozy mysteries go, fans of Vannetta Chapman will likely not be disappointed with her latest release. Hannah, Amber, and the rest of the village residents are admirable and will likely cause you to look forward to visiting Middlebury once again.

Look for the third book in the series, MURDER FRESHLY BAKED, to hit store shelves this summer.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on February 25, 2015

Murder Tightly Knit: An Amish Village Mystery
by Vannetta Chapman