Amish quilt shop owner Angie Braddock has a lot on her plate this Christmas. But things only get worse after someone develops a taste for murder in this festive mystery in the national bestselling series.
Angie’s parents are visiting Rolling Brook for Christmas—but unfortunately, her ex is joining them. Luckily, Angie has no time to dwell on her romantic troubles as she prepares her store, Running Stitch, for the town’s traditional progressive dinner, featuring a sleigh ride stopping at each shop for a different course of the meal.
The meal ends with an Amish-themed Christmas play at the Swiss Valley Hotel and Barn. But the performance is cut short when an actress falls from the scaffolding to her death. After the sheriff suspects foul play, tensions between the Amish and Englisch heat up, as do rivalries among the acting troupe. Now Angie and her quilting circle must stitch together clues before they’re the ones running for cover...
INCLUDES QUILTING TIPS!
About the Author
Isabella Alan is the author of Murder, Simply Stitched and Murder, Plain and Simple. An academic librarian for a small college in Ohio, she grew up visiting the state’s Amish country with her family. Her 2010 debut, Maid of Murder, written under the name Amanda Flower, received an Agatha Award nomination for Best First Novel.
Read an Excerpt
Water fell from the faucet into the old porcelain sink in Running Stitch’s tiny bathroom. Through the closed door, I heard the cheerful Pennsylvania Dutch chatter of the ladies from my quilting circle. Normally, the sound would have made me smile. Today, any noise was certain to cause an instant migraine.
I dabbed my face with a damp paper towel, careful not to mar my eye makeup. When Ryan Dickinson showed up at my door, I wanted to look my best. Not for him but for me. Didn’t every girl feel like that when confronted with her ex-fiancé? Of course, most girls don’t have their parents to blame for the reunion. I rested my forehead on the mirror and willed myself to get a grip.
A tap came at the door. “Angie, are you okay in there?” asked Anna, who had been my aunt Eleanor’s closest friend.
I opened the door. My kitten, Dodger, and French bulldog, Oliver, sat on either side of her. Concern was plastered on all three of their faces.
“I’m fine,” I said, forcing some Christmas cheer into my voice.
None of them bought my act.
“Ya, you sound like it.”
If you had asked me before my move from Dallas to Ohio’s Amish Country whether Amish women were sarcastic, I would have said no. Boy, did Anna prove me wrong.
“I am fine.”
She stepped back to give me enough space to exit the bathroom.
“You didn’t seem that way earlier today. When your parents and Ryan arrived, you practically threw them onto the progressive-dinner sleigh. You barely gave Mattie and me enough time to introduce ourselves.”
I crossed the shop to the long table lined with tureens of soup, each made by a lady from my quilting circle, and chili made by me. I had to bring a little of Texas to this Christmas in Ohio. “The sleigh was leaving,” I said as I stirred my chili. “I didn’t want them to miss this important event in Rolling Brook. It’s not like they will have another chance to have an Amish progressive dinner.”
“They will if they come next Christmas,” Anna said.
I shivered. “Mom and Dad are welcome back, but this will be the last Christmas Ryan Dickinson spends in Rolling Brook if I can help it.”
Mattie Miller, my young assistant in the shop, said, “Ryan is very handsome.”
I scowled at the chili. Maybe I should add some more hot sauce and show them how we really do chili in Texas.
“He’s no more handsome than the sheriff. The sheriff is distinguished,” Anna said.
I flinched. There lay the heart of the problem. Ryan Dickinson, my ex-fiancé, and Sheriff James Mitchell, my kind-of boyfriend, were together in the same county for Christmas. I never thought I would see the day, not even in my worst nightmares. And it was all thanks to my mother, the mastermind behind the drama.
Suddenly, the chili didn’t seem all that appetizing. I debated going back to the bathroom in case I needed to toss the half dozen Christmas cookies I had pilfered from the tray Mattie had brought across the street from her family’s bakery. I placed the glass lid back on the Crock-Pot.
Mattie’s thin eyebrows wrinkled. “Angie, you don’t look so good. Are you ill?”
“I’ll be fine. The holidays are always stressful, right?”
Anna sniffed. “The Englisch make it stressful. It’s not that way in the Amish world. We know Christmas is a time of reflection on our faith, and to be with family.”
“I think most English folks know that too,” I said. “But there are also credit cards involved.”
Anna shook her head as if I’d hit her with yet another mysterious English riddle.
Mattie unwrapped a third stack of plastic bowls from their packaging and set them on the edge of the table. “The progressive dinner is across the street at the bakery.”
“Already?” I swallowed hard. The next stop would be Running Stitch. I hurried to the front window. Sure enough, the progressive-dinner sleigh was off-loading customers, most of whom were local English folks, with the exception of Ryan and my parents.
Before the cold could seep through their heavy winter coats and parkas, they dashed into the bakery. My best friend and Mattie’s sister-in-law, Rachel Miller, would warm them up with hot coffee and some of her prizewinning friendship bread.
Maybe if Mom and Ryan overeat, they will be too ill to talk to me about whatever brought them to Ohio this Christmas, I thought, feeling more cheerful. Then I could spend the rest of the week avoiding talking to them about it. I wouldn’t mind talking with my dad though. I suspected he was on my side. Plus, Dad had the ability to pack away a couple of pies single-handedly. The progressive dinner wouldn’t even be a challenge for him.
Mattie patted my arm as she carried a tray of crackers to the second long table along the quilt shop’s front window. “Angie, don’t worry so much. It will all be fine.”
When had Mattie become the calm, reassuring one? When she’d started working for me four months ago, she’d been a quiet, unassuming Amish girl. I liked the new Mattie, but I wasn’t sure how her conservative brother felt about her new confidence.
I peered out through Running Stitch’s display window. One of my favorite quilts, a double wedding ring pattern done in Christmas red and green, hung over the quilt stand next to a five-foot Christmas tree decorated with white lights and pincushions as ornaments. The Amish don’t have Christmas trees in their homes. Like everything else, their Christmas decorations are modest—some greenery and maybe a string of popcorn at most. I shuddered at what my Amish friends would think of the nine-foot glitzed-and-glittered tree that sat in the front hall of my parents’ home back in Dallas. There were enough electric bulbs on it to light up an aircraft carrier. Dad always said it wasn’t worth putting up a Christmas tree unless you could see it from space. Thinking of the tree made me nostalgic and happy that both of my parents were in Rolling Brook for Christmas.
The sleigh shifted forward a foot as the two draft horses shuffled in place. Steam escaped from their nostrils as they stamped the snow-covered road. Jonah, Anna’s son and my childhood friend, sat on the driver’s seat of the sleigh. He spied me in the window and waved. He arched his sandy-colored eyebrows as if to ask a question. Great, I thought, even Jonah wonders how I’m going to handle Ryan. Does the entire town know my ex-fiancé is here for Christmas? I already knew the answer to that one.
Behind me, Anna and Mattie spoke in hushed tones. I walked across the room in time to hear Mattie say, “Aaron said it’s wrong for the Englischers to portray the Amish that way.”
Ahh, I thought, the play. An Amish Christmas was the second hot topic in town, and I was happy to have it. At least it took some of the heat off me.
“Did you hear what it’s about?” Mattie asked.
“Judging from the title,” Anna said, “something about the Amish and Christmas.”
“Nee.” Mattie put her hands on her hips. “I mean yes, but it’s mostly about an Amish girl who falls in love with an Englischer and leaves the community. My brother says that it belittles our way of life.”
Anna snorted. “Let the Englisch have their fun.”
“If it were just Englischers.” Mattie lowered her voice until I could barely hear her. “Eve Shetler is in the play.”
Anna clicked her tongue. “Ya, I heard that. Eve is an Englischer now. It’s not our concern what she does now that she has left the community.”
“Many don’t feel that way. It’s fine she left the community, but why would she come back and mock it?”
“I don’t think the play is meant to mock anything,” I said, jumping in for the first time.
“Have you seen it?” Mattie asked.
“No, I heard bits and pieces when I was at the inn setting up for the Christmas quilt show. Tonight will be the first time I’ll see it run all the way through.” The progressive dinner would end at the Swiss Valley Hotel on Rolling Brook’s border with Berlin. The grand finale of the evening would be the opening of An Amish Christmas. Perhaps now was not the best time to mention the musical numbers in the production.
Mattie smoothed the pile of napkins on the table. “Then you can’t say for sure.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but the bell over the front door rang. Progressive diners poured into the quilt shop. Cheerful chatter quickly filled the small shop. The women raved over the quilts, and the men made a beeline for the tureens of soup. Anna and Mattie took up their posts behind the soup table and began dishing hot soup and chili into bowls.
Mom, Dad, and Ryan were in the back of the pack. My father gave me a huge grin, and it took all my willpower not to run over to him and give him a big bear hug like I had when I was a little girl. The man behind him, Ryan, stopped me. Ryan had a pained expression on his face as he rubbed his arms, as if to get blood circulating. Clearly, spending the night freezing in an Amish sleigh as it moved from business to business in Rolling Brook and eating heavy Amish food were not what he expected when he arrived in Ohio. I knew Ryan, the fitness fanatic, was already calculating the number of calories he’d consumed since his plane landed and how many hours it would take in the gym to burn them off.
His gaze zeroed in on me. Could I be wrong, but did his expression soften? My stomach did a little flip. I wouldn’t let Ryan’s chocolate puppy-dog eyes work their magic on me. I wasn’t going to be fooled this time. Never again.
I broke eye contact, and I took a deep breath. It was just a week. What could possibly happen to ruin Christmas in a week?
I glanced down at my beloved Frenchie, Oliver. He covered his nose with his white paw. Oliver knew better. He knew all the players on and off the stage.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries
“A dead certain hit with devotees of cozy mysteries.”—P. L. Gaus, author of the Amish-Country Mysteries
“Isabella Alan captures Holmes County and the Amish life in a mystery that is nothing close to plain and simple, all stitched together with heart.”—Avery Aames, author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Cannot wait to read. I love Amish country, tho' my personal background is Old Order Brethren.. She nails the issues'
This is Isabella Alan's 4th book in her Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries. We reunite with Angie and her friends during the holiday season. We also meet Angie's parents, in town to visit for the holidays. For some strange reason they also brought Angie's ex with them. From the progressive dinner, a town tradition, to a Christmas party at the Swiss Valley Hotel and to the final decision of Angie's parents, Isabella has once again given her readers great pleasure. FTC Full Disclosure - A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
I really enjoy mystery series and this is a good one.
Isabella Alan's Amish Quilt Shop Mystery series continues with the third book, Murder Served Simply. Set during the Christmas season, this novel, has everything from a progressive dinner, to a theatre production, all set to daily life in the Amish town of Rolling Brook. Alan's knack for writing about the simple lifestyle of the Amish imbued with a little bit of murder is both light and entertaining. Readers who love a good mystery, have a few pets, love quilting or just plain and simply enjoy reading, will love it. What I liked: One of the things I have always liked about this series is the way that Isabella Alan makes her Amish characters so real. When I think of the Amish, I have a lot of respect for their culture and beliefs, but I don't really see them as people who might be like me or as people I might find something in common with. But Alan does a fantastic job of making the Amish seem more accessible, more realistic and in some ways just as flawed and human as I am. Angie from the Running Stitch Quilt Shop is very busy with the holiday season in, Murder Served Simple. She is taking part in what is called a progressive dinner. I had never heard of that before reading this book, but found it a really interesting idea. Each of the local shop owners contributed a part of the meal and tourists went from shop to shop ending up at a local hotel for the final course. What a cool way to celebrate the season! I admit I want to steal the idea and create my own progressive dinner among friends, but it was certainly a great idea for this mystery. Alan uses it to get the mystery started so to speak, along with a Broadway production that has the Amish all in a stir. Not only does Angie have her parents and her ex-boyfriend in town for Christmas she ends up with a murdered actress on her plate as well. When a former Amish woman, turned actress dies in the middle of the first night of the play, it's up to Angie to figure out whodunit and why. Many of the Amish characters in the book, were not in favor of the play because they felt it cast the Amish in a bad light and made fun of their culture and beliefs. That certainly added to the suspect list, along with the actors and actresses from the play and a crazy Amish relative of the victim. Bottom Line: Alan does a great job of balancing the mystery in this book against Angie's personal dynamics with her matchmaking parents and her new and old boyfriends. The mystery aspects were fun to read and try to figure out, while Angie's life continued to get in the way of her sleuthing. Pet lovers will love scenes with Oliver and Dodger and the Christmas theme was well included in the mystery. An all around great addition to this wonderful Amish mystery series.
i love quilting and a good mystery, this has both. i love nook books i order them and can start reading right away. get this one its a good read
Dollycas’s Thoughts I love this series more with each new story. Angie’s parents arriving to spend the holidays was great even though they brought her ex with them and that her mother still expected them to patch things up and have Angie move back to Texas. But Angie has gotten stronger and made a home and friends in Ohio. One very special friend but will their new relationship be tested by Ryan’s arrival? Several years ago I was part of a progressive dinner so I loved that part of the story. Sadly were didn’t travel to each stop by sleigh, that would have been so awesome. In the story it was a great way for Angie’s parents and Ryan to meet the people of Rolling Brook. The Amish-themed Christmas play was the catalyst in this story because the actress in the leading role had been Amish and left for the Englisch way of life to follow her dream in New York only to return to star in this play. Could someone from her Amish life have something to do with her death or was it someone from the troupe? Alan takes us down some cold and slippery slopes as we follow the clues with Angie. The characters a very fleshed out. You can tell the author has taking a lot of time researching and developing them and their personalities. Amish people generally keep to themselves and their orders. We only get to meet them if we visit their shops and farms. Isabella Alan shares their way of life with us in a very identifiable and engaging way. She only brings the Englisch folks to life in a way that the interactions between themselves and with the Amish feel very real and true. Angie goes between both worlds and because of her aunt’s influence she seems very comfortable doing so. The story had a more serious tone than Murder, Simply Stitched but it was such a fantastic read. I had a very hard time putting it down even to eat dinner. Trying to relate to a mother whose child leaves a way of life behind. A way of life that basically demands that child be forgotten. Then to have them be so close only to have them die before any chance of communication was possible just ripped my heart apart. It made me want to hug my kids and call them just to tell them I loved them. There are lighter moments like the way the pets play with each other. The Christmas theme runs throughout the entire story. Angie’s mother takes on the project of decorating Angie’s house for the holidays. You won’t believe what she does but that entire part of the story will have you giggling. There is also a major announcement that sets the readers up for the next installment to this wonderful series. I am so looking forward to my next visit to Holmes County!