Whatever it is about this book that makes it so relatable, so down-to-Earth funny, Amanda Flower should bottle it and sell it. Perhaps it’s the fact that this book takes place in rural Ohio, and I happened to live in rural Ohio for four years. Then again, maybe it’s because the main character, Chloe Humphrey is a born and bred city girl adjusting to life in a small town. Also like me. Or maybe it’s her interactions with her formerly Amish friends, innocent Becky and handsome Timothy Troyer—oh, wait. That’s not like me, although I did work at a hardware store frequented by the Amish for a couple of months before I moved out West.
Full disclosure: I’m a long-time fan and friend of Amanda’s, having read her India Hayes novels and the Appleseed Creek book before this one, A Plain Death. A Plain Scandal, the second installment in Flower’s Appleseed Creek series, begins with a dash of eaves-dropping, a hint of danger and, of course, a scandal. Chloe and Becky have new troubles: including a landlord who takes an inconvenient interest in restoring the old house and seems to have an equally inconvenient interest in Chloe; two jailbirds with a habit of harassing the Amish and Chloe; and, to further complicate matters, both Chloe and Becky (and even Chloe’s long-time friend, Tanisha) have ongoing relationship woes with their respective men.
While Chloe is unsure how to handle Timothy’s signals—she isn’t fully convinced he’s sending signals—a larger conflict brings the Amish back into her life. Someone is attacking members of their community and cutting off beards and hair, an insult of epic proportions to their way of life. Tension escalates when Chloe stumbles upon the corpse of one of the victims, turning her from Computer Technology guru into a P.I. for the Amish yet again. But there are voices within the Amish community that seek to stop Chloe from investigating the attacks and the murder, and hope to severe her ties to their community. As Chloe wrestles to piece together the evidence, searching for links among the victims while simultaneously fending off the advances and interference of her new landlord, it also becomes clear that a new bishop’s stringent regulations over the Amish might have more of an impact in their community than anyone has yet to realize.