Down To The Bone

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Rachel Mast is doing all she can to keep her life together one year after the tragic death of her husband. Against all Amish traditions, she is running her small farm and raising her twin boys on her own. And for the first time in a long time, Rachel is happy.

Then things start happening.... Her dead husband’s belongings turn up in unexpected places, her sons are acting strangely and Rachel feels as if she’s being watched. She knows someone is trying to scare her, but who and ...

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Rachel Mast is doing all she can to keep her life together one year after the tragic death of her husband. Against all Amish traditions, she is running her small farm and raising her twin boys on her own. And for the first time in a long time, Rachel is happy.

Then things start happening.... Her dead husband’s belongings turn up in unexpected places, her sons are acting strangely and Rachel feels as if she’s being watched. She knows someone is trying to scare her, but who and why? Is it Eben Yoder, her Amish neighbor, who’s determined to make her his wife? Or someone else in the community who wants her to conform to their ways? Or is it Mitch Randall, the stranger who has taken an unusual interest in her barn...and in the young widow herself, making Rachel feel things she’s never felt before?

As Rachel begins to dig up the past for answers, someone is equally determined to keep it buried. Someone who won’t stop at murder to keep the truth hidden.

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Editorial Reviews

Debbie Richardson
This story brilliantly paints a picture of a world most of us can only imagine, as a backdrop for a frightening tale where all the characters seem to have something to hide. This book is a keeper.
Romantic Times
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A wonderful mystery with romance and a hint of ghosts. When Rachel's husband is killed in a freak accident, she is determined to continue to raise their twins and farm their land with only nominal help from her fellow Amish brethren and her English-speaking friends. She begins to suspect that her husband was murdered as strange events start to happen-first his tools and then his clothing are moved, and then her children see him. Intellectually, she realizes that many of her friends, both new and old, Amish and non-Amish, had the motives and opportunities to kill him. While the story moves quickly, the mystery builds slowly and hooks readers, as Harper gradually introduces one clue or suspicion after another. The characters are well drawn; readers suspect nearly everyone and will identify with Rachel's wish to be independent. Amish beliefs and customs are woven into the plot.-Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780778321156
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 5/1/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 3.60 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Harper
Karen Harper

Karen Harper is a New York Times- and USA Today- bestselling author whose novels, both historical and contemporary, have been published worldwide. A former college and high school English instructor, Harper frequently travels to promote her books and speak about writing.

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Read an Excerpt

Down To The Bone

By Karen Harper

Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.

Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7783-2115-0

Chapter One

Clearview, Ohio September 18, 1997

The wind whined around the corner of the farmhouse, and loose straw scuttled across the yard. Rachel Mast wiped her hands on her long apron and looked out the kitchen window, frowning at the gray, clotted clouds. She'd had to light the kerosene lamps early. As soon as Sam came in from unhitching and feeding the horses, she'd serve the hot dinner she was holding. You might know, she thought, bad weather for her twenty-fifth birthday, though they'd be all snug and warm tonight. She'd heard Sam trying to teach the twins the happy birthday song, but she'd still act surprised.

Behind her, kneeling on a chair to set the table as he'd been asked, her son Aaron sneezed on the freshly cut bread. Rachel would have scolded him, but she was worried about what was taking Sam so long. Then she saw Andy, her other three-and-a-half-year-old, through the window. He was not in the barn with his Daadi as he was supposed to be, but squatted looking at something just outside it. Why didn't Sam keep an eye on him? If the wind picked up more, that old door could break loose and crack him good.

"Mamm, I dropped a spoon," Aaron said as it all too obviously clattered to the linoleum floor.

"You stay right here and don't touch the stove," Rachel told him, swinging him off the chair to the floor. "I'm going to get Andy and Daadi."

The wind bucked the back door as she went out. "Andy, come here!" she called from the porch. He looked up but didn't budge. A gust whipped his straw hat off and spun it away. He didn't so much as glance after it. Last week it had been so warm for mid-September that she had not yet made the boys change to their broad-brimmed black hats.

"Look, Mamm," Andy called in the German dialect all Amish folk spoke to each other. "The barn owl ate heads off the moles again."

To her dismay, he picked up the brown, furry scrap of death, extended it at arm's length and started toward her.

"Put that down! You get in the house and wait till I wash you up good. Where's your Daadi?" When he glanced at the gaping barn door, Rachel started toward it, pointing to the house.

"He said run tell you he's near ready," the boy shouted back. Of the two boys, Andy had talked first and better, sometimes as if he had to interpret for his brother. He was the older of the identical twins by about an hour and the leader of the pack, as Rachel sometimes thought of the two of them. No one but she and Sam could tell the freckled redheads apart, and even Sam had to look real close unless Andy was ordering or dragging Aaron around. But besides being the leader, Andy had a slightly rounder face.

"If Daadi's ready, where is he?" she asked, her voice on edge.

Evidently thinking he might get a smack on his trousers when she kept coming toward him, Andy finally dropped the beheaded mole and ran for the house.

Rachel strode faster toward the barn. Not only were her chicken and mashed potatoes cooling inside, but she didn't want to leave the boys alone. What was keeping Sam?

Though the barn was painted a soft, faded red with black trim, all seemed gray now as the early dusk and storm closed in. When she reached the doors, latched to the outside wall with the big antique hooks, they shuddered on their hinges. From just inside, she heard a muffled shuffling, a deep snort and thud. Chester, the huge, blond Percheron gelding who led the work team, stepped out past her. Startled, she jumped back, then reached up to grab his bridle. Sam hadn't even gotten that off yet?

Clucking to the big beast, Rachel turned and pulled him back into the barn. Sam had evidently not lit a lantern. She waited a moment for her eyes to adjust, but it was dark as the devil's heart in here, she thought with a shudder.

The Mast barn on Ravine Road just outside Clear-view, Ohio, was a pioneer building showing its age, but they had been thrilled to find such a large, beautiful one. Several other Amish families new to this fading farm community had bought places with houses much worse than this one just to get a sturdy barn.

"Sam, you here? Chester got out."

Unafraid of Chester, for Rachel loved horses, be they buggy trotters or the draft-bred, she pulled him into his stall next to the two others which were unhitched and unharnessed. In the far bay across the threshing floor the two buggy horses shifted and stamped. Rachel called out to calm them, "Sehr gut, Bett. Sehr gut, Nann."

The horses seemed to sense the approaching storm. Even the massive Percherons snorted and sidestepped against the walls, the whites of their eyes showing. Rachel slipped Chester's harness off and smacked his rump before she closed and latched the stall door behind him.


Rachel jumped when the small back door banged shut. He'd probably just stepped out after he sent Andy to the house, she reasoned, so he couldn't hear her. He'd come back in now.

But he didn't.

Her stomach clenched. As she walked onto the broad threshing floor past the enclosed granary and peered up into the shapes and shadows of both full haymows, the whole barn seemed to heave a huge sigh. Thank God, it was a bit late for tornado weather, because the wind was almost that bad. High above the shingled roof, Rachel heard the horse weather vane creak as it spun atop the cupola. The metal track that winched the hayfork across the peak of the barn rattled. Yet the familiar smells of the place comforted her - grain, hay, dust and pungent animal smells - even in such a clean-kept barn. But she smelled raw animal fear, too, and wondered if it was her own.

Rachel ducked as something brushed her face and cap. One of the pair of resident barn owls must have come in low instead of through the drop-down haymow door. The saw-toothed edge of their wings let them fly silent as a moth to kill their prey, but she'd felt its stealthy, soundless presence. The hair on her neck prickled.

"Samuel Mast! Wo bist du?"

She saw him then. Her scream cut through the shriek of wind. The horses banged their stalls as rain began to beat against the lofty roof.


Excerpted from Down To The Bone by Karen Harper Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    A Real Page Turner

    I love Karen Harper's novels. She has a way of blending everyday life and mystery and romance into a wonderful story. Her Amish books are such a dramatic setting because it's so different from our Englisher's way of life. These simple people with their love of family, land and God's will, it makes you want to protect their culture. Karen Harper grew-up in Toledo, (like myself) so she writes into her novels settings that are familiar with the names of towns and streets laced through out. In Down to The Bone, everyone becomes a suspect, and Rachel Mast finds it hard to trust anyone, when she believes there is good in everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2004

    terrific read

    Like her other books, the author keeps you turning the pages. Romance and suspense. I read this book in two days. Couldn't put it down. It's about an amish widow trying to save the barn for her two sons and at the same time, she wants to know what really happened to Sam, her husband who died in the barn. Gives you some input on how amish people live and how their and ours are different. You won't be disappointing.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting romantic suspense

    Three years ago, forty-one members of the Maplecreek Amish community move across Ohio to buy affordable farmland and end their zoo-like attraction to tourists. Among the relocaters is Sam and Rachel Mast and their twin sons. However, only two years of bliss in their new home passes when Sam dies in what is believed to be a freak accident. A year later, Rachel has radically changed and her neighbors feel she has become a rebel defying the conformity code of her people. <P>Rachel works her own farm and refuses to marry church leader Eben Yoder. Even more scandalous is her friendship with her English neighbor and with Englishman Mitch Randall, a restorer of barns. Mitch wants to repair Rachel¿s barn, which leads to a forbidden attraction between them. While Rachel struggles with this crisis of the heart, someone begins to terrorize her in actions that she feels is linked to Sam¿s death. <P>Anyone who wants an insider¿s look at the religious, cultural, and political lifestyle of the Amish will want to read DOWN TO THE BONE. Karen Harper makes her characters seem alive although readers will wonder why Rachel does not seem to suffer heartache from her sudden loss nor qualms about breaking rules that she adhered to all her life. The exciting story line will retain the audience¿s attention throughout a tale where suspects are eliminated one at a time in a strange manner. <P>Harriet Klausner

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