Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Down to the Bone by Karen Harper

Publishing Information:
Title – Down to the Bone
Author – Karen Harper
Publisher - Mira
Date Published -2000
# of pages - 408


Genres & Themes: Mystery, Amish, Romance

GoodReads – 88 Ratings, 3.81 Average Rating – 13 Ratings, 5.0ish Average Rating

Plot Summary:
Rachel Mast is doing all she can to keep her life together one year after the tragic death of her husband. Against all Amish traditions, she is running her small farm and raising her twin boys on her own. And for the first time in a long time, Rachel is happy.
Then things start happening.... Her dead husband s belongings turn up in unexpected places, her sons are acting strangely and Rachel feels as if she s being watched. She knows someone is trying to scare her, but who and why? Is it Eben Yoder, her Amish neighbor, who s determined to make her his wife? Or someone else in the community who wants her to conform to their ways? Or is it Mitch Randall, the stranger who has taken an unusual interest in her barn...and in the young widow herself, making Rachel feel things she s never felt before?
As Rachel begins to dig up the past for answers, someone is equally determined to keep it buried. Someone who won t stop at murder to keep the truth hidden. --Goodreads description

What I thought:
I was very skeptical about this book at first. I like books that take place in an Amish setting but I really, really don’t like ‘sappy’ romance novels, which is what most of the Amish books I’ve been seeing lately are all about. But this book was passed down to me by two people who really enjoyed it and were excited enough about it to find someone to share with. I had to at least try it, right? After leaving it for about a month and going back and reading the back cover, realizing it was actually a mystery, I was much more intrigued and ready to start reading.

I really enjoyed this book but I do find it hard to describe it without seeming a bit negative (keep in mind I really did enjoy this book). At first glance there really doesn’t seem to be much different from this book than any other standard mystery. It’s pretty formulaic in that way and there’s nothing really different about Harper’s writing style that makes it so special. The formula? Woman’s husband dies in a freak ‘accident’ but she doesn’t think it is one, mysterious things are happening all around her, she meets a man who happens to want to help her but she doesn’t know if she should trust him, there are twists and turns to throw the reader off and eventually everything comes together in one giant reveal, woman decides what to do about man who has been helping her and she lives happily ever after.

But there was so much about this book I personally really enjoyed that made it hard for me to put it down. First, Rachel is Amish but it’s not the standard Amish story. Rachel isn’t as sheltered as her other community members. She has an English friend and spends a lot of time with her, even using her as a babysitter for her children. She visits the library and reads English books and throughout the course of the story she gets involved with many other English people. This makes her place in the community very unsteady and makes the mystery behind her husband’s death (and her new possible romance) very interesting. It also makes all the explanations of Amish vs. English lifestyles much more realistic. It fits into the storytelling unlike those other stories where the Amish are too sheltered to make the kind of comparisons authors usually do. There is of course romance in this book but it’s not the ‘sappy’ romance I was afraid of. The mystery and ‘creepy’ vibe from the story is much more prominent here. There was lots going on in this story which gave me lots of things to want to find out and keeping me reading. It was very hard to put down.

Bottom line is, I really enjoyed this story. Enough to search through Karen Harper’s other stories to find some future reads.

Recommended to:
  Adult readers, Mystery romance readers

Where you can purchase this book:
Available “new & used” through Amazon marketplace. 

Add this book to your GoodReads "TBR" list or find out more:
Go to the Down to the Bone book page.

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