In Laura Bradford’s Just Plain Murder, set in the Amish community of Heavenly, Pennsylvania, series character Claire Weatherly is given the task of comforting her boyfriend, Jakob Fisher, as he deals with the fatal stabbing of his mentor and father figure, Russ Granger. Claire, herself not Amish, owns a shop that sells Amish goods. Jakob grew up Amish until he decided to leave the community and follow in Russ’s footsteps as a police detective.
That means that Jakob is still shunned by all church members—including his family. His own relations will literally turn their backs on him, but he’s made peace with this with the help and support of Claire. Their strong relationship is at the heart of this story, which manages to be both sweet and slightly melancholy. The threads of the investigation have Jakob and, by association, Claire losing sleep as the two of them try to find any reason that the retired Russ, only in town to visit his daughter, was murdered in her back garden.
The threads of the Amish spread far and wide and take in Claire’s friendship with Jakob’s brother (and her love for his newborn daughter), the selection of a new bishop for the Amish church, and the disturbing behavior of a young man on Rumspringa, the Amish tradition that allows teenagers to be free of religious and community restrictions for a year or two so they can decide if they truly want to be baptized and join the community,
I liked being immersed in this gentle culture and I enjoyed the strong relationship of Jakob and Claire, which allows them to work through Jakob’s grief while supporting each other, and not incidentally solving the mystery.