What I’m reading now: Amish mystery edition

Apparently I’ve had a lot of time to read this week. Here’s the list:
Sworn to silence-- Linda Castillo (& Pray for Silence)
They fight like soldiers, they die like children-- Gen. Romeo Dallaire
The man who risked his partner-- Stephen R Donaldson
Chasing the night-- Iris Johansen
Trail of blood-- Lisa Black (also Takedown and Evidence of murder)
Burying Ariel--Gail Bowen
The girl in the green raincoat--Laura Lippman
A prayer for the night-- P.L. Gaus
Shattered--Scott Wallens

I’ve come across two authors in the last couple of weeks who write mysteries set in the Amish community.

Sworn to Silence and Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo (2009, 2010)
Police Chief Kate Burkholder used to be Amish, but now she’s under the bann. However, she’s come back to her home community of Painter Mills to make a life for herself.  Now she’s trying to solve a serial-killer murder while keeping a dark secret from her past in her past (Sworn to Silence).Then, ten months later, the slaying of an entire family brings back memories that threaten her ability to to do her job, and to hold on to her emotional equilibrium (Pray for Silence).
Castillo has written a number of books previously, mostly Harlequins and Berkley Sensation, and her skills in writing show. She shows both the Amish and the English communities in a balanced light, and as far as I can tell, her picture of Amish life is accurate. Excellent writing, great suspense, well-developed characters, and twisty plots have won me over-- I’m waiting for the next one (Breaking Silence), due out in June 2011.

A Prayer for the Night by PL Gaus (2005, reissued 2011)
I was intrigued to find two titles by PL Gaus on the new book shelf at the library. There are seven so far in this series (see for more information), with another coming out later this year. Gaus’s series is something of a gentler read than Castillo, but it’s every bit as compelling to read. The main characters are Pastor Caleb Troyer, Professor Michael Branden, and Sheriff Bruce Robertson, childhood friends who still depend on each other to help out. Troyer is a connection into the Amish world, and understands Pennsylvania Dutch, which can be helpful. Robertson is the law connection, and Branden provides a connection or two of his own, as well as a keen understanding of the world and human psychology.
In A Prayer for the Night, two Amish boys go missing, and after their friend Sara asks for Troyer’s help, she disappears, too. All three-- plus another six Amish youth-- are a part of a group going through Rumschpringe, the “wild days” Amish youth are permitted before making a final decision to commit to the church and community. Most Rumschpringe are more mild than wild-- occasional weekends wearing English clothes, going to movies, and visiting the odd bar-- but Sara and her friends are in way over their heads.
Gaus has serious credentials when it comes to the Amish culture, and it shows. The people and community are lovingly depicted, and the plot twists are all credible. I plan on reading the rest of the series.

What I'm Reading Now


Welcome to What I'm Reading Now, which I hope will become a regular feature here on I've been an inveterate reader since age six, with a couple of pauses along the way for life events, and I'm a librarian (and have been for a while). I enjoy recommending books to people, primarily in the genre that I read most, which is mystery/thriller. This is not to say I don't read other kinds of books—I do, just not as regularly.

Enough introduction-- on to the books.

Someone will be with you shortly: notes from a perfectly imperfect life by Lisa Kogan (HarperCollins, 2010).

Apparently Lisa Kogan writes a column for O: the Oprah magazine. I've never read it.

I may start now.

This was hilarious. I usually don't read sections aloud to my long-suffering husband. In this case, not only could I not keep from reading lines to him, I couldn't stop laughing while I was doing so. I've always thought laughing at your own jokes to be a little gauche, but that didn't stop me. The best part was that he was laughing, too, and continued chuckling at intervals for half an hour afterward. (See chapter 11, “The Hours”, especially for the bit about Mrs. Weinstein, Julia's stuffed platypus. (Okay, I have to quote it: “... though I do spend an ungodly amount of time wondering why my daughter is not on a first-name basis with her stuffed platypus...”))

Anyway, Kogan gently makes fun of herself, rather than the people around her, which is something of a lost art. She can be funny, nostalgic, wry, wise, and she knows her way around a sentence. I found her book very hard to put down; so much so that I was holding up an LED puck light as a booklight in bed, and putting it down to turn the pages, to finish that one last essay.

Read it; I think you'll like it.


Love you to death and One fine day you're gonna die,both by Gail Bowen (Raven Publishers, 2010).

I finished both of these in an afternoon.

Okay, well, first of all, I read quickly. Secondly, they're both part of the publishers' new series called Rapid Reads. They're paperback books, 128 pages each. (Truth be told, I finished both of them inside an hour). They are also extremely good.

I've been reading Gail Bowen's mysteries for years now. She's a Canadian writer, and her mysteries feature Joanne Kilbourn, who lives in Regina and seems to have murder follow her around. Bowen's characters are interesting and human, and her plots are brilliantly twisty. That being said, Joanne Kilbourn doesn't show up in either of these books. Instead, they focus on Charlie D, a radio DJ who attracts some very odd listeners. Charlie D was a main character in Bowen's seventh mystery, Burying Ariel. I'd like to say that I thought then that I'd like to see more of Charlie D, but that may not be true; I am, however, quite pleased to see him again.

Each book takes place during the span of a single show, where Charlie D is dragged into trying to prevent a murder—a tall order, considering that he's an ordinary radio DJ, not a psychologist or hostage negotiator. Whether or not he can pull it off, and how, makes for excellent reading.

If you like these, try Bowen's other mysteries. She deserves to be more widely read.




Where have I been?

Well I haven't written anything recently. It's not that there isn't anything happening, rather it is that there is too much happening.

When we first started this little venture on the net, I had just taken a lay-off from a job that was 70 miles away from home, and I went from almost no time at home to always being at home. This gave me a lot more time to work on this web site and house renovations and many other things. Now I have just started a job with one of the local potato processing plants. I'm doing QA (quality assurance) and working on upgrading the computer network and processes that are currently in place.

This is a big job with a lot to learn. Not only do I have the potato quality to learn, but also the procedures and people as well. In addition to the new job, 95% of my co-workers speak plaudietch as their primary language. I know, I host Carl's plautdietch content, but I'm not that good with understanding and speaking yet. So in addition to everything else, I'm starting a low-german course with Red River Community College at the Winkler campus. <em>Etch mot Ein bate meia plautdietch readen.</em> (spelling in plautdietch is not my strong point)

The house renovations got stalled when I started the new job, but we did manage to tear apart a bit of wall tonight, by the end of the week, our bedroom will be larger, and we'll be able to close off one of the doors. Maybe even put in a bookshelf where the door was. The house is small enough that every bit counts. We also picked up the ceiling panels today. I don't know when we're going to put them up, but we spent the money on them so it will have to happen eventually. I'm hoping that the living room is actually finished before Christmas. And by finished I mean every last bit done. I'm not sure if that will happen, but it's a goal.

Well one of these days I'll get it finished and then post some before and after pictures. I'm sure you'll agree that it was worth the effort.


There has been a lot of spam in the recipe forum recently. I guess this means someone has noticed us. I have taken some steps to reduce spammer registrations on this site. IP addresses will be logged for all postings. All spam will be deleted and the user blocked as soon as it is discovered.