Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and a well-crafted mystery
Cons: Pacing of mystery could be better; a handful of writing miscues.  Both are very minor issues.
The Bottom Line:
Complex characters
Draw you into this debut
Where pages will fly

Conflict and Murder

A few years ago, I was reading some Christian fiction in addition to my cozies, but as more and more of the focus in the Christian fiction market turned to Amish set stories, I stopped paying attention to what was being published.  As a result, I shunned Hearse and Buggy when it came out even though it was a mainstream cozy mystery.  Really, I wasn’t that interested in reading about the Amish.  But the praise I heard for the third in the series last year made me decide I had to give it a try.  All that praise was well earned and I now have a new series I must keep reading.

When Claire Weatherly’s marriage fell apart, she needed a safe place to get away, and her aunt’s invitation to visit the inn she runs in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Amish country, seemed perfect.  Claire quickly found a home there and has even opened up a shop that sells items that her new Amish friends make.

However, Claire’s new friends are threatened when the body of a man is found in the ally by her shop one day.  The victim is Walter Snow, the former owner of Claire’s shop, who left town after people realized he was cheating the Amish out of money.  Obviously, those he stole from would be logical suspects, and Claire knows several of them.  Complicating matters further, Jakob, the new detective in town, left this very Amish community to become a detective, and his home coming has not been pleasant since he is shunned by the community.  Can Claire help the investigation along to find the killer?

Characters in the best series grow over time.  I can like them right off the bat, but sometimes, it is two or three books before I feel like I truly know them.  That wasn’t the case here at all.  Oh, there is definitely room for them to grow as people, but these are real people already.  I feel like I know them and my heart was breaking for them at several points in the book.  These are now friends I must visit again soon.

It is the strong characters that propel the plot forward early on in the book.  The author has a background in romance writing, and the romantic sub-plots are stronger than in some series I read.  There are also conflicts in addition to the murder, and they take over much of the early portion of the book so there isn’t as much advancement on the mystery as I would have liked, even though the body of the victim is found early on.

Now, normally, that last paragraph would be cause for me to take off a star, and I thought about it.  But in the end, I just couldn’t.  Even though the murder takes a back seat at times near the beginning, there is so much compelling conflict that I was constantly turning the pages and never wanted to put the book down.  As the mystery takes more of the center stage, it is extremely well plotted and the solution is logical with several well planted clues, yet it was surprising at the same time.

I did feel the author told us things instead of showing them to us, especially near the beginning as we were learning background on the main characters.  The story is told in the third person, and a few times the author gives us several lines of dialogue in a row and then throws in a “she” to help us remember who is saying what.  Unfortunately, there were two women in those scenes, so it doesn’t help as much as I would like.  Again, these are very, very minor issues that seemed to smooth out as the book progressed and are worth noting only in passing.

I read for pleasure, so I tend to stay away from books and series that don’t really interest me.  However, every so often it is good to reevaluate, especially when you start hearing praise for a certain series or author.  I’m glad I gave Laura Bradford and Hearse and Buggy a chance because I am now hooked on this series.  I will be making time to find out what happens next to these characters very soon.

If you get hooked like me, here are the rest of the Amish Mysteries in order.


  1. I read an earlier book from Laura Bradford that I really enjoyed but like you I hadn't felt particularly motivated to read this one because of the Amish tie-in. Looks like it might be worth looking for! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Definitely worth reading. If it can make me want to read more, then it should work for just about everyone.


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