Nancy Mehl crosses genres in her suspense set in a private Mennonite town. TV news reporter Wynter Evans' younger brother disappeared nine years ago, but she never gave up hope that somewhere, sometime he might still be found. When she comes across a photograph of a young man who strongly resembles the boy that disappeared, she travels to the small Mennonite community where the picture was taken, preparing to do a small human interest piece on the town while surreptitiously investigating the boy. In spite of the antagonism of a number of the occupants, Wynter finds herself charmed by Sanctuary and its helpful young mayor, Rueben King. However, the town seems steeped in secrets, and clearly someone does not want their secrets to be revealed . . .
While I have begun reading more and more suspense, I have never read much Amish fiction, so this is something new for me. The two genres are not typically paired together, but it caught my attention. While the majority of the story takes place in a Mennonite community, the mystery/suspense aspect is stronger, given that the main characters are not Mennonite themselves. It is a good taste of Amish fiction and introduction to lives devoted to simplicity without diving headlong into the genre. Wynter's interviews as a reporter help clear up misconceptions and convey some surprising facts for those of us who are fairly ignorant about the Amish, Mennonites, etc - a nice, natural way to convey the facts without bogging down in back story or explanations.
Although I initially was unimpressed - even annoyed - with Wynter's photographer, Zac became my favorite character. While Wynter has her share of change, opening herself up after years of holding everyone at bay, Zac's development is more radical yet: from sullen jerk to a fun and loveable guy. I really like how his relationship with Wynter develops once they are over their bumpy beginning. Since this is the first book of a series, I am hoping Zac will feature prominently in the next installment.
The author does a good job keeping the reader's attention with a number of surprise revelations. The mystery reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle - there are many widely
differing pieces that must belong to the same puzzle - it's unlikely that pieces of a different one got mixed in - but finding where they connect is the challenge. The romance moved a bit fast for me, considering Wynter is there for less than two weeks, but it seems longer given that they spend so much time together. An enjoyable read - 4 out of 5 stars
Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-copy for
the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all
opinions are my own.
1. Gathering Shadows
2. Deadly Echoes
3. Rising Darkness