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When Rachel Mast returned to Stone Mill, Pennsylvania, she unwittingly became a bridge between the closed Amish community and the Englisher police. Now, as she prepares for her wedding, she’s drawn into an investigation that could end in a different ceremony—her funeral . . .
Rachel didn’t know Daniel Fisher well, but it still comes as a shock when her fiancé, a state trooper, tells her that the young Amish man’s death may not have been a hunting accident. The police believe he was murdered and they need Rachel’s help telling the family. But when she does, they don’t seem upset or even surprised. Even more unsettling, Daniel’s brother-in-law confesses—while his mother begs Rachel to prove his innocence. But why would he give a false confession? Who is he trying to protect?
As Rachel’s search for answers overshadows her wedding plans, rumors swirl that she might not show up at the altar—and that Daniel wasn’t as upstanding as he seemed. While the list of people who wanted him dead grows, Rachel is caught in the killer’s crosshairs, and if she’s not careful, it may be more than her feet that turn cold . . .
Praise for the Amish Mystery series
“An excellent addition to the Amish mystery subgenre.”—Library Journal
“An exciting tale of mystery, love, and danger.”—Booklist
“A well-informed look into the tranquil world of the Amish with a fairly edgy puzzler.”
About the Author
EMMA MILLER lives quietly with her family on a farm in Kent County, Delaware. She also writes sweet Amish romances for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line.
Read an Excerpt
Stone Mill, Pennsylvania November ...
Rachel Mast stepped out on the back porch of her parents' farmhouse. She wore a calf-length dark-blue dress, a black apron, thick black stockings, and black leather shoes. Her hair was twisted up into a knot at the back of her head, and over it, she'd tied a dark-blue scarf. From head to toe she appeared Amish, wearing a borrowed dress of her mother's and her sister's shoes and stockings. In the clothes she felt Amish, but she wasn't. At least, technically, she wasn't Amish anymore. Although, today, her old life called to her with poignant whispers that tugged at her heart.
The house was crowded with people, all Old Order Amish except for one out- of-place Methodist minister who'd come to pay his respects. He'd then stayed for the chicken and dumplings, the Dutch apple pie, and the sweet-and-sour coleslaw, for which her mother refused to give out the recipe. This was a funeral gathering, and as always, the Amish turned out to lend their support to their own. The newly deceased was Daniel Fisher, a member of their church community, the victim of a tragic hunting accident.
That morning, Daniel had been laid to rest in the Amish cemetery, and due to the small size of the family house and the circumstances of the sudden death, Rachel's parents had offered their home for the gathering. Rachel wasn't certain how many mourners had come back from the cemetery, but vans and buggies had been arriving for the last hour. One preacher or another was offering prayer and consoling words in the parlor; children played quietly on the stairs or, frightened by the weeping, crept under tables to press close to their mothers' legs. Babies were passed from hand to hand, rocked, nursed, and jiggled, and plates of food and soft chairs were produced for the elderly and infirm.
Amish women and teenage girls prepared and served food nonstop. The hall and sitting room tables were stacked with pies, cakes, cookies, and sweet muffins. Kitchen counters barely contained the baked hams, sausages, fried chicken, and roasted turkeys. Casseroles, bowls of canned peaches, and kettles of soup and gravy covered two stove tops and spilled over onto a desk.
It was because of the turkey that Rachel had ended up wearing Amish clothing instead of the simple black pantsuit that she'd arrived in early this morning. Ida Mae Hostetler had been coming in the back door with a tureen of turkey gravy and giblets, just as Rachel had been on her way out to the springhouse for another pitcher of buttermilk. A cat had been attempting to sneak into the house, lured, no doubt, by the kaleidoscope of enticing scents drifting from the kitchen. Ida Mae, a small woman, had the mischance to tread on the tabby's tail, and the resounding screech had been so startling that she had lost control of the container of gravy and thrown it into the air. Rachel, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, caught the bulk of the contents down her pants, blouse, and jacket, not to mention in her hair. Thus, she was forced to don the only clothing available, Old Order Amish garb.
Dressing this way didn't feel as uncomfortable as it should have, Rachel decided as she wandered out onto the porch and rested a hand against a turned wooden post. Outwardly, she'd left her Amish home and way of life as soon as she'd turned of age. She'd desperately wanted to see more of the English world, and she'd wanted an education, something frowned upon by the ordnung, the code that Plain communities chose to live by. She'd turned her back on the family heritage and friends she loved, leaving the peaceful valley and the small town of Stone Mill to become part of the mainstream American society.
Alone, possessing only a rudimentary eighth-grade education, she'd worked, acquired her high school diploma, her bachelor's degree, and finally an MBA from Wharton. She found that she had ambition, a knack for numbers, and the imagination to use them to make people's lives better. But success in the world of finance didn't bring the personal happiness she had been seeking. So she'd resigned from a high-paying position and returned to her home to open a B&B in a wonderful old brick house that had been teetering on the brink of collapse. She'd reunited with her family and come to the conclusion that she would forever be caught somewhere between the Amish and the English worlds.
"I've come full circle," she murmured to no one in particular. All those years of being away, and she could now put on an Amish dress, pin up her hair, and almost become the girl who'd run barefoot through these fields and struggled to learn to churn a pound of butter.
Rachel stared out into the farmyard, her gaze unfocused, not really seeing the lines of gray and black buggies or the groups of black-coated men in wide- brimmed wool hats standing out of the wind. The ground was wet, the gravel and dirt churned up by the horses' hooves and the running feet of children. Little was left of the two inches of snow that had fallen the previous day. Most had melted when the temperature rose, making the area around the barn particularly messy.
A middle-aged Amish couple approached the back porch, the red-cheeked woman dressed in black, balancing a four-layer coconut cake. "We've come to pay our respects, Rachel," the man said solemnly in Deitsch.
The wife nodded.
Rachel returned the greeting in the same tongue. Among her people, Deitsch, mistakenly called "Pennsylvania Dutch" by outsiders, was the language of choice, although all but the youngest children also spoke English fluently.
"How is Mary Rose holding up?" the woman asked as she came up the steps.
"Doing poorly," Rachel replied. "It was a shock, losing Daniel that way. Especially with the new baby."
"God's ways are not always easy for us to understand," the husband remarked. "He was a fine young man, devout and hardworking."
"Always mindful of his elders," the woman added. "Bringing groceries to the shut-ins. A credit to his parents."
Rachel motioned toward the door. "I think Mary Rose is with the bishop in the parlor. Kind of you to bring the cake."
"A small token," the woman intoned. "We'll remember the widow in our prayers."
Her husband opened the door and held it for her. He was a stocky man of medium height with graying hair, a broad German face, and light-blue eyes. "We pray for the whole family," he added.
For a moment, the sounds of the gathering drifted out onto the porch, and then were muffled again as the door to the house closed behind the couple. Rachel pulled her mother's shawl tighter around her shoulders. It was a raw day, above freezing, but still cold with a damp chill. She wasn't ready to go back inside yet, though. There were too many people there, too much talk, and too few open windows. Unlike her immediate family, some in the conservative community hadn't adopted the English habit of using deodorant, and the multilayers of winter wool clothing didn't mask the body odor.
Rachel knew her mother needed her, and standing there with idle hands wasn't encouraged. But she'd been on her feet since dawn and she needed to catch her second wind. Hard work didn't bother her; she'd been raised to appreciate it. But it lifted her spirits to step away from the communal grief and listen to the wind whipping down off the mountain and the shriek of a red-tailed hawk high overhead. Just another few minutes, she promised herself, and she'd be ready to plunge back into the controlled chaos again.
On the side of the barn, in the shade of the overhang where snow still lay, Rachel caught sight of something red. She studied it. What was it? A mitten a child had dropped? If so, small fingers might grow cold on the way home. Rachel went down the steps off the porch and, taking care to avoid the puddles, she walked across the yard toward the object.
As she grew closer, she realized her mistake. It wasn't a mitten but a bird, a cardinal lying sprawled in an unnatural position on the white snow. Odd that she hadn't noticed the brilliant red feathers against the white when she first stepped onto the porch. She wondered if the bird had died of illness or flown into the barn wall and broken its neck.
Evan was an accomplished bird-watcher, outfitted with expensive binoculars, telescopes, and membership in multiple birding organizations. He could recognize hundreds of species of birds, often just by their song. But cardinals were common enough that she'd recognized them since she was a small child. She had rarely seen a dead one in all her years on the farm. She decided she would move the poor thing and get one of her brothers to bury it. No sense in leaving it for children to see.
But, to Rachel's surprise, as she neared the dead bird, it suddenly revived. It shuddered, shook out its wings, hopped, and flew up, fluttering over the top of the barn in a flash of crimson, vanishing from sight. Not dead, then, Rachel decided, but only stunned. Alive and strong enough to fly.
A pity poor Daniel Fisher couldn't have done the same, she thought. What would his widow have thought if Daniel had abruptly sat up from his bier and walked? Not dead as everyone supposed, but only stunned and suffering some sort of coma? That was the sort of wondering best kept to herself or shared with Evan. Her parents wouldn't understand and take her musing as disrespectful to the deceased.
Rachel turned back to the house and then remembered the buttermilk she'd come out to retrieve. As she turned toward the springhouse, she met two of her distant cousins on the path. One carried a pitcher of milk, the other a wheel of cheese.
"Such a pity it had to happen to Daniel," the oldest was saying in only slightly accented English. "And him so full of life and vigor."
"And so cute," her sister replied. "He had a way with him, you know?"
"You can say that again. Even sweet to — Rachel?" The girl's eyes widened and she nearly lost her grip on the container of milk. "You're wearing Amish dress. Have you ..."
"Turned Amish again?" Rachel chuckled. "Ne. Just an unwanted encounter with a pan of turkey gravy."
"It suits you," the older girl said. "Better you come back to the faith now, my mother says. And not marry that Englisher policeman."
In her late teens, the girl was tall and thin as a rake handle with small eyes and not much of a chin. Poor thing, Rachel thought. It was what came of a closed society intermarrying over so many years. She hoped that Uncle Juab would give her a piece of land and a few cows to attract a suitor. She was a clever girl and deserved a husband as much as her prettier sisters did.
"Best we'd all get inside and help," Rachel suggested. There would be a lot of dishes to wash. Maybe she'd volunteer. She didn't mind washing dishes. She was free to think because her hands knew the tasks. It wasn't like having to make conversation about the natural appearance of the deceased or conjectures about how such a terrible accident could have happened. A hunting accident. Daniel had inadvertently shot himself.
Rachel took a deep breath of the cold air, retrieved the buttermilk, and returned to the kitchen. As when she'd left, the kitchen was packed with busy, chattering women and one who was loudly weeping. Rachel's mother, a fussy granddaughter balanced on one hip, saw Rachel and gestured for her to take a serving tray from the edge of the sink.
"I wondered where you were," her mother said, making her way through the crowded knot of women to her side. "Apple cider and lemonade. And that box of tissues. Could you take it into the parlor? And see if anyone wants coffee or water."
The baby girl, Rachel's brother Paul's youngest, was dressed in traditional Amish garb in a long gown, old-fashioned cream-colored baby cap, and black high-topped shoes. In her tiny mouth was a pink pacifier shaped like a flower secured by a pink ribbon and pinned to the front of her baby gown. Pins on clothing were supposed to be straight pins, but since it was attached from the inside and both Rachel's mother and her sister-in-law were sensible, Rachel suspected a safety pin inside the child's clothing.
"Shouldn't you sit down for a while?" Rachel suggested as she picked up the tray of drinks. "The doctors said you shouldn't overdo." Her mother's color was good today, and her eyes were bright, but Rachel knew that she didn't have her full strength back yet after being treated for breast cancer. Her hair was growing back from the chemo, and it seemed thick and healthy in appearance, but it was still very short for an Amish woman. Today, her mam wore her traditional kapp instead of the scarf she'd been wearing for the last six months. And the pins on her dress and apron were definitely straight pins.
"Don't worry so much." Her mother smiled. "I am goot. Save your compassion for Mary Rose. How she will manage without Daniel, I don't know. When I think what he's done for that family since he married her. Not that I fault poor Ernst. So long Mary Rose's father was in that wheelchair before the Lord took him home. And her brother, Moses, being the way he is." Her last word held a certain tone.
Moses Studer was considered odd by the Amish. It was Rachel's guess that if he had lived among the English, he would have been diagnosed years ago with Asperger's. Instead, his friends and neighbors simply remarked on his occasionally strange behavior and his way of talking and interacting with others. The good thing was that he was completely accepted by the Amish and cherished as another soul, blessed by God.
"But how many bridegrooms would take responsibility for a failing farm, a mother-in-law, and a twelve-year-old boy when he married?" Rachel's mother continued. "Without Daniel, the family would have been —"
"Esther." Rachel's Aunt Hannah bustled through the throng, interrupting. "Your Samuel wants to know where his old Bible is, the one with the worn cover given to him by his great-uncle. Preacher Harvey has a cousin in Bird-in-Hand who repairs old books. He says that if those loose pages aren't fixed, the whole volume is in danger."
"In the cabinet under the stairs," her mother answered. "Wait. Can you take this one? If she needs her diaper changed, there's a stash in the big bathroom closet. I'll get the Bible. Samuel couldn't find a fly on the end of his nose."
Rachel waited for an opening to carry in the tray of drinks, but instead of thinning out, the crush seemed to get worse as more food was being passed into the living room, where more tables had been erected. Mary Byler, who was sitting near the woodstove, fanned herself with a copy of the magazine Family Life and motioned to her. "Rachel! Are you going to have the wedding at that English church in town?" she called.
For such a small woman, her voice carried easily above the murmurs, and Rachel involuntarily winced. This didn't seem the time or place to be talking about her impending wedding. "We are," she answered quietly.
"What? I can't hear you! Shh, I'm trying to hear Rachel," Mary said to the two nearest matrons, who were talking about the new widow's eldest brother.
Rachel knew who they were discussing because she'd heard Arlene Troyer say, "... It was Daniel that got him that good job at the mill."
"Come over here, Rachel." Mary motioned with her makeshift fan. "I want to talk to you. Hear all the details."
Rachel offered a quick smile. "Sorry, fetching for my mother," she called back, and then to her aunt, she said, "Excuse me. Mam wants me to take these drinks into the parlor."
"Rachel?" the old woman called after her. "Where are you going?"
Rachel plunged into a divide in the black bonnets and wiggled her way through to the narrow hallway without losing her glasses of cider and lemonade. She'd have to go back for the tissues.
Aunt Hannah followed close on her heels with the baby on her hip. "Why don't you want to talk about your wedding? Are you having second thoughts? Because if you are, there's no shame in it."
Rachel shook her head. "I'm not having second thoughts. I just didn't want to talk about it today. I feel so bad for Mary Rose. Talking about my wedding seems almost ... well, almost like boasting about my blessings."
Rachel's niece stared at her with large round eyes. She was a pretty child; Rachel didn't know if she'd look like her mother or her father. Babies, at least young ones, always looked alike to her. She liked babies well enough, but she was wary of them, especially when they cried. This one was vigorously sucking on her pink pacifier and didn't show any signs of bursting into tears.
Excerpted from "Plain Confession"
Copyright © 2018 Emma Miller.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rachel Mast, is a character that lives between two worlds. Born and raised Amish, she presently lives as an Englisher and runs a Bed & Breakfast as well as a gift shop in the nearby town of Stone Mill, Pennsylvania. At this time, she is planning her upcoming marriage to Evan Parks, an English State Trooper. Rachel often acts as a go-between when the Amish people have any issue with English law enforcement. Rachel is helping her mother at the wake of a young Amish man, Daniel Fisher, who died in a hunting accident. Evan arrives to tell her the detectives want to question the family as Daniel's death is actually a murder. When the detectives arrive, Rachel assists the family while they are being questioned, much to the chagrin of the detective. When Moses, the older brother of the widow is arrested after he confesses to the crime, Alma, Daniel's mother-in-law asks Rachel to help find the real killer. Moses is considered odd, but Rachel thinks he has Asperger's Syndrome. Rachel and her cousin, Mary Aaron begin to ask questions. They are sure that Moses is covering for someone. As the investigation continues, the townspeople are taking bets on whether the wedding will actually take place at all or whether Rachel will back out. This story is filled with mystery and suspense. There are many twists along the way with more than a couple suspects. The mystery in this story is well plotted and will keep you guessing as to who is the guilty party. I changed my mind on who it was a few times and I love when I think I have it all figured out only to be thrown in a different direction by the author. Rachel's character is strong, loyal, smart, stubborn, persistent and doing an amazing job of balancing her old and new worlds. I enjoyed the character of the English "prepper", Charles, who lives on the mountain. It looks like he may become a friend and I would love to see him in a future story. Mary Aaron is still trying to decide which world she wants to live in. She works well as Rachel's sidekick. Of course Evan continues to be the patient, understanding man who is proud of Rachel and her feelings for others. He has moments in this story where he has issues, but that makes him more realistic. Another great story by Emma Miller and I look forward to my next visit to Stone Mill, Pennsylvania. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Plain Confession is the fifth book in the series, and it can be read as a standalone. Details on Rachel, her family and Evan are included. I found Plain Confession to contain good writing, and it was easy to read. Emma Miller is a descriptive writer which helps bring a book to life. I did feel that some details were not needed. An example is as a person is driving down the road readers get a detailed description of the scenery, the turns the person makes while driving, etc. Rachel Mast is a unique character. She was raised Amish, but she was not baptized into the faith. She stayed in the community where she was raised and runs a bed and breakfast. This allows her to interact with the Amish and Englisch. I like that Rachel honors Amish traditions (dressing modestly and covering her head for example) and is respectful. I felt that she became too fixated on the case. It made it seem like she was having second thoughts about her marriage to Evan Parks. I did not like how Evan did not want her to look into Daniel’s case and kept reminding her (once was enough). It felt off since Rachel has helped Evan on past cases. I like that the main characters are established and nicely developed. I was not a fan of Detective Sharp. Sharp is a cliché nasty detective that is similar to those in other cozy mysteries. The mystery has some good components, but I felt it was too simple. I wish it had been more complicated and harder to identify the culprit. The investigation consists of Rachel asking questions and then speculating on the case. I was curious as to why Daniel’s body had been released for the funeral when the investigation into his death was not complete and the autopsy results were not in. Of course, the police showing up at the funeral was tacky and inconsiderate (they could not wait until the next day). Plain Confession needed more action. The pace was too slow at times which made my attention wander. Christian elements are woven seamlessly into the story (having faith, God’s mercy), power of prayer). My rating for Plain Confession is 3 out of 5 stars. While Plain Confession is not my favorite book in the series, I will continue to read the books in A Stone Mill Amish Mystery series.
Rachel Mast runs an Inn in Stone Mill, Pennsylvania, the Amish community she was raised in. With ties to both the Amish and Englisher Worlds, Rachel often helps law enforcement when they need to speak to the Amish. When a murder occurs in the local Amish community, Rachel steps in to help the police and is shocked when a gentle, young Amish man confesses to murder. But Rachel doesn’t believe he is guilty and agrees to help his mother by trying to prove his innocence. Planning for her upcoming wedding and running the inn takes a lot of work, bur Rachel does her best to try and uncover the truth. Though her state trooper fiancé, Evan, asks her to let the police do their job and focus on their wedding. But a promise is a promise and Rachel ties to balance it all without having her world fall down around her. While this is the fifth book in the Amish Mystery series, it is the first one that I have read and is great as a standalone if you have not read the previous books. Definitely a page turner and I can’t wait to spend more time in Stone Mill with Rachel, her friends and family.
The author has us back at Rachel Mast’s Inn, and we catch up with her life, and with Mary Aaron, and Evan, and of course her State Trooper fiancé, and without a doubt there will be a mystery. Balancing her wedding, and running the inn, along with the murder of a local Amish man, keeps our girl busy, and missing appointments. There are even odds that she will bolt from her ceremony. This one is going to keep you guessing from beginning to end, and we get to meet a lot of interesting characters while we try to guess to find out who the murderer really is. I enjoy being in this community, and hope for more, need to know what happens with Mary Aaron, and the rest of the folks we have come to know. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Kensington, and was not required to give a positive review.
Plain Confession by Emma Miller is another great addition to the series. Rachel is an interesting character. She was raised in the Amish community, left for her own reasons and now has returned to her Amish family. Rachel still considers herself an Englisher, but she is also practicing some of the Amish traditions as well. When a dead body is discovered and the wrong person takes the blame, Rachel sets out to help. Rachel and Evan are getting married soon and trying to plan a wedding seems to be getting in the way of her investigation. I enjoy this series very much and I'm looking forward to seeing if Rachel and Evan finally say I Do! I voluntarily read an ARC of this book provided by the publisher and NetGalley.