Long before Miss Bates was ever a spinster, she read all the Pippi Longstocking books she could get her hands on. It was with a nostalgic smile that she read Chief Greta Rose’s assessment of our romance heroine and amateur sleuth, Chloe Humphrey, in Amanda Flower’s first Appleseed Creek cozy mystery, A Plain Death, “You’re like the Pippi Longstocking version of Nancy Drew.” Our red-haired geek girl and wanna-be detective continues to eavesdrop, interview, investigate, and fight for truth, justice, and the Amish way in Flower’s second cozy mystery, A Plain Scandal. In this case, she’s in pursuit of the culprit who is cutting off the beards of Amish men and Amish girls’ long hair … until these nasty shenanigans turn to murder, the murder of a successful young Amish man, Ezekiel Young.
Everything good that Miss Bates said about the first book in the series still stands in the second. The gently theological ethos is present and well portrayed, the hero, heroine, and their growing closeness is lovingly rendered, Chloe’s voice rings steadfast, humble, and funny, the atmosphere of small-town foibles and big-time sins is sketched with the same consideration. And yet, for Miss Bates … a little ennui set in. She missed the presence of the romance as front-and-centre. She feels like a fair-weather friend to the cozy, but there it is. There’s something that happens in the mystery novel that turns ho-hum for Miss Bates. She thinks it’s the plot-driven quest for clues, this relentless interviewing of witnesses, scooping out and aligning of tips that is information- instead of emotion-driven that leaves the mystery in the dust on the road-race to her reading love.
There is less character development in the second book because, of course, we’ve learned a lot about what makes our hero and heroine tick in the first. Becky is still there, as is Grandfather Zook, the Troyer clan, the feisty chief Rose … and this is where the mystery and Miss Bates parted ways, in this entrenching of character that is its bane. Even the poetry-writing Dalgliesh petrified for Miss Bates. And her imaginary television boyfriend, Christopher Foyle, lost her after season three.
The Amish controversies and conflicts surrounding the politics and governance of the community that continue from book one are very interesting. They are focused around how open the community can be and still retain its core religious identity. The humiliating crimes of beard- and hair-cutting that initiate the mystery are key to understanding the difficult position niche communities inhabit in the melting-pot of America, “the world is too much with us.” The resolution to the murder, the who/why-done-it, in this second book, is quite puerile and the villain bug-eyed uninteresting. The inspirational tone is more subdued than the first, but the still-inspirational-identity of the novel, of course, doesn’t leave room for the motive to be Dalgliesh’s “love or lust;” therefore, “lucre” is once again the culprit.
There are two scenes that coaxed Miss Bates out of her reading pout and that you shouldn’t miss. One is … yea for romance … Chloe and Timothy’s first kiss! 🙂 The second is an homage to one of Miss Bates’s favourite scenes in a novel ever: Scout in her ham costume in To Kill A Mockingbird. This hilarious scene involves Chloe, a lot of cotton batting, a snow-man costume, and a float in Appleseed Creek’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
One of the endearing aspects of this second book is how Chloe is beginning to feel like she belongs, has friends, a family, a man who loves her. She has emotional attachments in the town and it’s heart-warming to experience her arrival at these realizations. Chloe had a Jane Eyre-ish childhood and near-orphan-hood in the first book that is heart-breaking. It’s great to see her belong and be loved. Miss Bates leaves the cozy behind for now, only to await a little dipping of the toes in its waters when the third book comes out. As Chief Rose, once again, characterizes Chloe, there’s something about our “Amish whisperer” that one cannot resist … at least in small doses. The “mind” here is still “lively and at ease” Emma. As a reading experience for Miss Bates, it served only to be “almost pretty” Northanger Abbey.
A Plain Scandal is available in the usual formats and places. Miss Bates is grateful to B&H Publishing for an ARE that was made available to her via Netgalley in exchange for this honest, if truncated, review. The third book in the Appleseed Creek series, A Plain Disappearance, will be released on September 1st and Miss Bates will be reading and reviewing it. (BTW, B&H, the covers are beautiful!)
What about you? Do you have a point of malaise regarding a certain genre? From whence does it stem? And just to satisfy Miss Bates’s curiosity, are you a Pippi Longstocking fan? Did you read the books? Watch the TV series?