LANCASTER, Pa. — Sunbury Press has released Plain and Deadly, Barbara Workinger’s latest novel in the Life as a P.I. hasn’t always been what Ellerie March envisioned for herself. With a caseload mostly resembling the domestic scenarios on Jerry Springer, she’s not exactly working high-profile cases or helping to stop deadly criminals in their tracks. That is, until she meets Liddy and Annie Beiler—two Pennsylvania Amish women who have discovered an abandoned baby … or so they say. El takes the case in hopes of locating the baby’s missing mother, only to find herself in the midst of a homicide investigation and all too close to the family who might be responsible for this whole mess. Set against the backdrop of Pennsylvania and Ohio Amish country, city girl El casts her net for suspects—some of whom are the very people she needs to rely on to solve the case. Though she knows about keeping friends close and enemies closer, the lines of who is who become blurred in this “whodunit” escapade … especially when an unexpected romance springs up in the middle of everything, much to the delight of El’s grandmother and investigative “partner.”Through the course of the investigation, El uncovers not only secrets about the Amish and their friends, but also discovers special relationships she could have only found by following her instincts and her heart. The desperate search for the truth reaches its peak in a land where El thought the world would always be simple and safe, proving that even the most unsuspecting of places can be both Plain and Deadly.
“Two Amish ladies. Dressed Amish at least, of course they could be.”
“Tracy, cut the speculation. Let’s assume they are Amish. Did they say why they wanted to see me?”
“It’s something about a missing person. That was all they said.” Tracy narrowed her eyes. I could almost see the black and white 16-millimeter film running in her one-track mind. “What do you think?” she asked.
“I think you’d better show them in, Tracy.”
“OK,” she whispered, removing handfuls of papers from the two chairs that faced my desk.
A few minutes later, the two women were seated across from me. Amish they were. I’d seen enough Amish in my growing up years in Lancaster to know the real thing when I saw it. And knowing that, I was as surprised as Tracy was to have the pair in my office. It was a first for me and I’d venture it was a rarity for any investigator. The Amish had little need to frequent a domestic investigator’s office.
The elder of the two introduced herself as Liddy Beiler. Liddy was in her early forties, I guessed. Hard to tell. Amish women, without any help from cosmetics and beauticians usually looked older than the “English”—which was how they referred to the non-Amish. Despite, or maybe because of the natural look, Liddy was beautiful in a serene, clear-eyed way. Glossy dark hair was pulled away from her face and showed only slightly from its containment beneath her black bonnet. She was also very plump. Maybe that accounted for the absence of lines in her face.
The younger woman, twentyish Annie Beiler, was Liddy’s daughter-in-law. If Liddy was beautiful, Annie was drop-dead gorgeous. Huge luminous blue eyes stared out from a perfect oval face. Despite her attempt to tame her ash-blond hair beneath a traditional Amish prayer cap, it curled out in becoming tendrils around her face. Amish or not, I imagine every male from nine to ninety noticed Annie.
In Annie’s arms a rosy-faced baby of about two or three months of age slept peacefully, wrapped snugly in a miniature Amish patchwork quilt.
“What a sweet baby you have,” I said, my not-so-well-hidden maternal instincts turned on full blast.
“Oh, he’s not mine,” Annie said. I thought she looked momentarily sad when she said it. I had obviously been spending too much time around Tracy: everything seemed like a scene in an old movie.
“Oh?” I said to no one in particular.
“He—we call him Jeremiah—is why we are here,” Liddy said, answering what was to be my opening question if I hadn’t been too besotted with small Jeremiah to remember to ask it. Liddy spoke formally, using very few contractions and had a decided Pennsylvania Dutch accent, pronouncing the “J” in Jeremiah like a “Ch,” making the name sound like Cheremiah. Her voice was smooth, the tone soothing. Reminded me of a few shrinks I’d met in my work.
“He is?” I said. In a few moments I mentally examined and discarded several of possibilities as to why.
“Yes. It is Jeremiah why we are here … and this note.” She fished in her commodious black purse, coming out with a neatly folded piece of paper. She handed it over, carefully lifting it high over the clutter of my desk. I wondered how Liddy, with her Amish sense of neatness and order, could stand my office. I would learn later that the Amish don’t judge the English, although they do wonder about us.
“We want to hire you,” she continued in the direct, no-time-for-useless-preliminaries way the Amish have.
I read the note, which looked to be hastily but legibly printed on the kind of lined paper I’d noticed the Amish usually used for correspondence.
“To Liddy Beiler, midwife: I am leaving this Amish babe with you because it is the only safe place for an Amish child. You must keep him for just two weeks already. I am in danger and he will be, too, if he is found with me. If he is given to the English I will maybe be killed. I need to fix up some trouble and I will come for him. Bless you.”
The note was signed “A Mom.”
About the Author:
In writing her mysteries, Barbara Workinger draws on her background as a research journalist, an antique dealer, and an interest in the art of quilting. She combines them with a fascination for the Amish area where she lived for over twenty years. Ten of those years were spent in researching the Amish.
Plain and Deadly: An Ellerie March Mystery
Authored by Barbara Workinger
List Price: $16.95
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Women Sleuths
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