The brand-new hilariously quirky mystery in the longrunning Pennsylvania-Dutch series.
Deciding that the PennDutch Inn needs to go more upmarket, Magdalena Yoder is delighted to welcome the Earl and Countess Grimsley-Snodgrass and their family as honoured guests, looking forward to the challenge of introducing English nobility to traditional American culture. But, as Magdalena is about to find out, the Grimsley-Snodgrasses are by no means the easiest of guests, and at the same time she has to contend with the discovery of a mummified corpse trapped in her elevator shaft.
Then tragedy strikes during a traditional Pennsylvania-Dutch picnic at Stucky Ridge, when one of the Grimsley-Snodgrasses disappears over the edge of Lovers’ Leap. Did he fall – or was he pushed? And where is the body…?
About the Author
Tamar Myers was born in what was then the Belgian Congo in 1948, where her parents were American Mennonite missionaries to a tribe of head-hunters. She moved to the USA at the age of fifteen. On her mother's side, Tamar is descended from one of the first Amish families to settle in America in 1738. She is the author of more than forty mystery novels and many short stories.
Read an Excerpt
Tea with Jam and Dread
By Tamar Myers
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2016 Tamar Myers
All rights reserved.
My name is Magdalena Portulacca Yoder Rosen and I have a heart full of Christian joy, but I am not a happy woman. This may seem like a paradox, but please allow me to explain. The joy comes from the certainty that my sins are forgiven, and that I will, for a fact, be going to Heaven, but how can I be happy when my only sister faces a twenty-year prison sentence for aiding and abetting a convicted serial killer? Even more damaging to my psyche is the fact that the serial murderer, Melvin Stoltzfus, our erstwhile Police Chief, is not only my brother-in-law – he is my biological half-brother!
No one would guess that we are related just by looking at us, because I resemble an upright mare, although with pinned-back ears and somewhat larger teeth, whereas Melvin is the spitting image of a praying mantis. At any rate, through some inexplicable means, Melvin was able to cast an evil spell on just about everyone he met. The result was a bizarre cult known as Melvinism. Its adherents worshipped him as if he were a deity. Someone 'discovered' a complete set of scriptures called The Book of Melvin, and a second volume titled Sacred Hymns to Melvin, both wrapped in a feed sack and tucked away in the far reaches of a hayloft of a long-abandoned barn. The book's contents were nothing more than a bunch of fairy tales in which my bug-eyed, bobble-headed brother performed a series of outrageous miracles – stuff impossible to believe. However, that didn't stop the local yokels from falling for it. Not only did they fall for this claptrap hook, line and sinker, they proselytized others as if tomorrow was the end of the world. In a way, it was the end of my world, because when Melvin turned into a killer his cult followers protected him wherever he went.
Truly, my tale of Melvin is tragic enough to sadden any good woman, but my unhappiness did not begin then. Even now my face burns with shame as I confess that some years ago I became what I refer to as an 'inadvertent adulteress.' Yes, I know, there are others who will always call me just plain adulteress, and I suppose that is their right to do so, but it is also my right to suppose that they are just plain envious. Anyway, it happened like this.
I was a young woman and a virgin. I had no idea what a naked man looked like, supposing that they all looked similar to Michelangelo's Statue of David, a photo of which I'd chanced to come upon in a travel magazine. You can imagine then, that when I did espy the real thing on my wedding night, as it wobbled straight at me like a headless turkey neck, that I screamed and dived under the covers. After that traumatic night I could never look at a real turkey without blushing, and Christmas dinner was forever ruined.
But wait, if only the horror of my tale ended there, it would at least remain my private nightmare. Alas, that was not to be. Just as the ex-virgin (that would be me), now the newly wedded and bedded, freshly minted matron, was on the verge of experiencing marital bliss, her husband, Aaron Miller, blurted out the name of his first wife. That's right: his first wife, a woman to whom he was still married!
'I signed the divorce papers,' he whined. 'How was I supposed to know I needed to show up in court? It was my first divorce.'
We all make mistakes, and I might even have been able to stick by Aaron through all of this debacle – I had promised 'till death do us part' – except that within a matter of days he confessed that there was a child involved, a daughter by the name of Alison.
Long story short: my marriage to Aaron was annulled and I met and married Dr Gabriel Rosen, whom I call the Babester. Several years ago, Gabriel and I ended up formally adopting Alison, now age fourteen, because it turned out that neither Aaron, nor his first wife, really wanted her. One year ago, at age forty-nine, I gave Alison a younger brother, delivered in quite the more usual way.
There you have it, if only in a rather large nutshell: the history of my unhappiness. Given the extent of my suffering, please indulge me by permitting me one last observation: a woman with two husbands is an adulteress, whereas a man with two wives is merely a bigamist! Why, you might ask? It's because all three of the biblical patriarchs were polygamists. Forsooth, being an inadvertent adulteress, I was the victim of rape. My maidenhood was stolen from me by an act of deception; there, that's putting it plain and simple enough, is it not?
One would think that I had done enough suffering to make Swedes in winter as giddy as schoolgirls in comparison, but that didn't stop the Good Lord from testing me further. Despite the fact that my younger sister, Susannah, was in prison for aiding and abetting a man wanted for murder, I was finally getting the hang of the one skill that happy folks of all mindsets must finally get around to mastering, that of compartmentalization.
So what if my half-brother, who resembled a giant praying mantis, was the alleged murderer, and that I'd witnessed him skipping town dressed in a nun's habit, riding in a bus full of fake nuns? And so what if my sister, who had too many bad habits to list, was also wearing a nun's habit when she was caught by the long arm of the law, and that, as per usual, there was a tiny, but vociferous, odoriferous, and vicious Yorkshire terrier nestled in the right cup of her oversized brassiere? It's my contention that just about every family has at least one psychopath, if not two, clinging to the limbs of its ancestral tree. What sets my family apart is that the dearly demented sit next to each other on the same branch.
So there I was, on the verge of becoming happy once more, when Sheriff Felonious Stodgewiggle, our county law enforcement official, paid a surprise visit to the PennDutch Inn. It was early summer and I was shelling green peas whilst sitting in an Adirondacks-style rocking chair on the front veranda in the cool of the afternoon. My hunky husband, Gabe, the Babester, was at that moment driving our teenager, Alison, over to spend the night at a friend's house. Gabe had taken our infant son, Little Jacob, with him.
Our village has its own police department, so the sheriff's people normally just do 'drive bys.' So when I saw the car turn up the gravel lane in my direction, I instinctively knew it was trouble. When I saw that it was Felonious who was driving, I knew it was big trouble.
'Whatever it is, Felonious,' I said as he got out of the car, 'I'm going to have to take a rain check.' I glanced at my wristwatch. 'How about, say, two o'clock on the Twelfth of Never?'
Poor Felonious Stodgewiggle. His were the shaggiest eyebrows I have ever seen. Truly, they are like a pair of black Persian kittens that someone has glued to the skin of an otherwise baby-smooth face. His so-called five o'clock shadow would be the envy of any Hollywood actor's weeklong attempt at growing facial stubble. The thatch that manages to escape from the slight V at his throat hints at grave but marvellous consequences for any woman fortunate enough to undo another button. Oops, perhaps I have said far too much for a married woman who has promised to remain faithful to her husband, even in her mind, to the bitter end.
Being all man, Sheriff Stodgewiggle doesn't possess a shred of humour. He is the kind of man who would hit a woman over the head with a club and drag her back to his cave – if he were a Neanderthal. Of course, I'm only joking, because Neanderthals never existed, given that God created Adam as a white man with a prominent jaw and a straight forehead, and that was around five thousand years ago, not hundreds of thousands of years ago, or whatever. And we certainly didn't evolve from apes, or even a common ancestor of apes, which is what my husband, Gabe, believes. I know for a fact that the sheriff doesn't believe in this scientific nonsense.
At any rate, since Felonious is humourless, and neither is he a Mennonite like myself, nor married to a secular music lover like my husband, he was stumped by my answer. He scratched beneath his voluminous chin with his thick, broken nails and sniffed the air, as if those actions might bring clarity.
'Uh, is that one of youse Mennonite holidays?' he asked.
'Forgive me,' I said. 'I was being facetious.'
I set my bowl of peas aside, along with my attitude and my bad manners. 'Would you care to take a seat, Sheriff? These rocking chairs are actually more comfortable than they look.'
Sheriff Stodgewiggle settled into his proffered chair with a smile. 'Yeah, this is nice. I've been wondering what to put on my porch ever since Ma broke the hammock. Her doc's been after her to stay under three hundred pounds, but you know how she loves her sweets.'
'When I offered you a seat, dear, I didn't mean that you could actually keep the chair. It belongs to my husband.'
'Oh. I knew that; you bet I did. Magdalena, I'm here because I have some bad news.'
My heart leapt into my throat which, given that I am vertically enhanced, meant that it had a long way to travel. 'It's my sister, Susannah, isn't it? What did she do now? Try to sneak out of prison in a laundry bag? Dig her way out with a teaspoon? Feign death so well that she was taken to the prison morgue? Because she's done all of those twice already, except that last one —'
It was only then that Felonious raised a hairy paw to signal me to stop blithering and to start listening. 'I got an email today from a woman in Charlotte, North Carolina, by the name of Maggie Peerless.'
'Hmm,' I mused, 'Maggie. Do you suppose that is short for Magdalena? Sadly, there aren't that many parents naming their daughters Magdalena these days – at least not out in the general population. It's still pretty popular among the Amish, though.'
Felonious shook his thick salt-and-pepper mane and roared like a lion. 'Magdalena, I swear I don't know how your husband puts up with you.'
'Why I never!' I said.
'This woman's name wasn't the point,' he growled. 'I thought that you might want to know what her message said.'
I could feel my hands grow cold and clammy as my throat constricted with dryness. 'Well, since you drove all the way out here from Bedford it must be something rather important. So yes, I do want to know. I very much want to know.'
Sheriff Felonious Stodgewiggle knew by then that he had me hook, line and sinker. The satisfaction showed in his eyes and what little bare skin he had on his face, but I didn't care; I was his for the telling.
'She claims to have spotted Melvin Stoltzfus on television doing a commercial,' he said. 'It was an advertisement for Adorhim: those pills that are supposed to stimulate the female libido. The adverts feature handsome, bare-chested men lounging next to a pool. They're speaking directly to the TV screen and their message is that all a woman needs to do, in order to get her engine racing again, is to start swallowing those pills.'
I burst out laughing, which was like jabbing the lion with a white-hot poker. When the beast had calmed down enough to pay attention to my words, I managed to spit out a few of them.
'Did you ever meet Melvin?'
'No,' Felonious said, sounding deeply regretful. 'His crime spree here ended just before I took the job. I moved here from Toledo, Ohio, if you'll remember.'
'I didn't think there was another Toledo,' I said, 'except for in Spain. Anyway, Melvin is a dead ringer for a praying mantis. A giant version, of course. He has a tiny head, huge eyes that swivel in all directions and his limbs are toothpick thin. The only part of the analogy that doesn't hold up to this image is that no giant female praying mantis could stand to eat Melvin Stoltzfus.'
The black Persian kittens on the sheriff's forehead leapt in unison. 'So what you're really saying is that you can't stand your brother —'
'Half-brother!' I said vehemently.
'But brother-in-law as well, correct?'
'Yes, I was adopted. Susannah is not related to that scum — Forgive me, it is not in my nature to call someone names.'
'Well, I just wanted to give you a heads-up that he'd been spotted,' Sheriff Felonious Stodgewiggle said as he rose stiffly to his feet. 'And now I can be certain that you won't be aiding and abetting this fellow in the event that he does show up in these parts.'
'Likewise, I'm sure. Correct?'
'I beg your pardon?' he said.
'If you had done any homework, you would have discovered that the name Magdalena Yoder is synonymous with law and order here in Hernia. Our village could not afford a police department were it not for my largesse. My reputation as sleuth has spread even beyond the borders of our county – I dare say even beyond the borders of our fair state, given that I once solved a crime in the dairy industry in the State of Ohio. There was no use crying over spilled milk when I was done with that.'
Sheriff Felonious Stodgewiggle denied me the satisfaction of even a sarcastic response. Without further ado he turned and barrelled down my steps like a man who had somehow been deeply offended. But by what? I wondered. Oh, well, it presently being summer, I closed my mouth in order to limit the number of flies that sought entry and went back to shelling peas.CHAPTER 2
I much prefer to visit with my friends face-to-face, as the Good Lord intended, not Facebook to Facebook. Ergo, because I am the mother of two and run a bed and breakfast, my best friend Agnes Miller and I make it a point of having tea and conversation together at her house once a week if at all possible. Although I truly enjoy Agnes's company, and profit from it emotionally, my visits to her are intended to bring her comfort and succour.
You see, Agnes recently married my oldest friend, Doc Shafer. At the time of their nuptials, Agnes was forty-nine and Doc was eighty-six. Fortunately for one of the newlyweds, and unfortunately for the other, old Doc was as randy as a billy goat. He also owned a billy goat, as he lived on a farm. At any rate, Agnes's extremely short marriage was one during which she never had a good hair day, and to see her walk, you might have thought she was a cowgirl – if you get my drift. Old Doc died of natural causes just ten days after saying 'I do,' but he died an extremely happy man.
Everyone thought that Agnes would be devastated after Doc's death and possibly even remain in seclusion, but as long as we good citizens of Hernia kept her busy by allowing her to meddle in our affairs, Agnes was as content as a cat on a warm window seat, and such was her mental state the day this saga begins. I had taken my toddler, Little Jacob, to visit his 'Auntie' Agnes, and to give him the opportunity to pet her many inherited animals. These, of course, included the notorious goat, who went by the name of Gruff. It was late afternoon – of a Tuesday – and we were 'taking tea' on one of the large farmhouse's several sweeping verandas.
'The British are coming,' Agnes said, with just the hint of a smile.
'That's what Paul Revere shouted from his horse to warn the American colonialists some 240 years ago. Don't you have any gossip newer than that?'
Agnes's plump little mouth turned down. 'I don't gossip, Magdalena, you know that; I merely deliver facts, which I then sometimes feel free to editorialize on, but only when the individuals are truly deserving.'
'You're quite right, dear. And anyway, it was a good thing that Paul warned us poor hapless colonists that the mighty British were about to attack.'
'Magdalena,' Agnes said with growing impatience, 'let's leave the Revolutionary War behind for a moment. Instead, let us think about culture, for it was the British who invented culture.'
'Really?' I said.
'Magdalena,' my best friend said as she poured me a cup of tea, 'as I've said before, it would help me a lot in deciphering your emotions if you darkened your eyebrows and plucked all those stray hairs. As it is, I can't tell if you're being serious, sarcastic or if you're genuinely surprised. Which is it?'
I slowly slathered a piece of golden-brown toast with room temperature butter and then smeared globs of homemade strawberry jam over the surface. Then, of course, being an Ugly American, I took a ginormous bite and washed it down with milky tea before answering. After all, one must never comment on matters of international importance on an empty stomach.
Excerpted from Tea with Jam and Dread by Tamar Myers. Copyright © 2016 Tamar Myers. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tea with Jam and Dread by Tamar Myers is the twentieth book in the Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery series. Magdalena Portulacca Yoder Rosen is fifty years old, a Mennonite, married to Dr. Gabriel Rosen, and mayor for the town. Magdalena also runs The PennDutch Inn in Hernia, Pennsylvania. Agnes has convinced Magdalena that she needs to change the image of the inn (instead of giving them an “Amish” experience by working them death and charging guests for it). Agnes has too much time on her hands since the death of her husband, Doc Shafer (they were married for ten days). Agnes believes they should appeal to English nobility and Magdalena can be the “grossest hostess” (in other words show them that we are really rude Americans). The first guests of the new inn are the Earl of Grimsley-Snodgrass (this was their name) and his family (wife and Countess=Aubrey; Lady Celia=daughter; Viscount Rupert=eldest son and twin; Mr. Sebastian=youngest son). They are in for a rude awakening at The PennDutch Inn (like having to bring in their own bags). Things are off to a great start until they find a mummified body on top of the lift (elevator). Then one of Earl’s sons disappear off a cliff (they look alike so it is hard to tell them apart). Though it is odd that no one can find a body. There is something very fishy about this group. Where exactly did Agnes find them? Magdalena sets out to investigate the two crimes. I had a hard time getting through this book. Tea with Jam and Dread went from silly to idiotic to moronic. This is the worst book I have read in quite some time. Some information is repeated frequently (like the author needed filler). There are also pages of arguing, mudslinging, insults, and long annoying rants. The words “Mennonite” “Jewish” and “hunky Gabe” were repeated so often that it was ridiculous. Magdalena would go off on tangents and get off track. She would then say “Now where was I” and “Oh yeah” (this happened quite often during the course of the novel). I’m sorry, but the whole story was just ridiculous. I wondered if the author had a problem with religion the way various religious groups were mentioned and talked about (it was strange). Tea with Jam and Dread was extremely disappointing. It is nothing like the early books in the series. I give Tea with Jam and Dread 1 out of 5 stars. I received a complimentary copy of Tea with Jam and Dread from NetGalley in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.
Tea With Jam And Dread is the twentieth book in the Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery series. If you are looking for a book with a lot of humor and puns, give Tea With Jam And Dread a read. Magdalena Yoder is back once with a hilarious tale from the PennDutch Inn in Hernia, PA. At the PennDutch you pay more, but get more too. You clean your own room and help out with chores around the farm. Magdalena's Aunt Agnes has finally convinced her to expand the breadth of her advertising to include Europe. Magdalena soon gets a reservation from the Earl of Grimsley and his family. Even though everyone speaks English, there seems to be some kind of language barrier that only adds to the humor. Soon the body of a prior guest, who was thought to have returned home, is found on top of the Inns elevator. So not only does Magdalena have snooty aristocrats to deal with, but also she has to find out who might have put the dead woman on the top of the elevator. It was another fun and funny visit to The PennDutch Inn.
I remember reading this series back in 2005. I enjoyed the first few books, however, the writing style began to set my teeth on edge. While I think I understand the humor the author is going for, it tends to be harsh and offensive. This book was nothing like I expected. It was truly an unhappy experience. I was put off by the language and the entire story itself. I'm sad to say I will not be recommending this book to anyone. I am giving it 1 star when in my opinion it deserves none. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.