Review of:  The Preacher’s Son

Patricia Johns.  Zebra, $8.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5236-4

Johns kicks off the first of a new series set in Bountiful, Pennsylvania, with a cautionary tale of dishonesty’s aftermath and the tragedies left in its wake.  When community preacher Abe Yoder is sentenced to prison for swindling people out of their money for the purpose of a fake charity [p. 2 ff], he leaves his son Isaiah to shoulder the burdens of guilt and shame.  After the bank repossesses his house and land to pay for his father’s crimes, Isaiah is forced to beg for work at a local book bindery owned by Nathaniel Glick [p. 8].  The owner’s daughter, Bethany, who works at the bindery, is struggling with her own loss as her former fiancĂ©, Micah, broke off their wedding in favor of leaving the Amish community [p. 3].  However, Bethany discovers not long afterward that she is pregnant with Micah’s baby [p. 81].  Isaiah has always secretly loved Bethany but never courted her as his friend Micah expressed interest first.  Unlike both his friend and his father, Isaiah is committed to practicing the values in which he believes, even it means suffering social ostracization [p. 3 ff].  He and Bethany initially bond over their shared notoriety in the community, but gradually realize they share common values. They help each other learn how to forgive and trust again, and in so doing, fall deeply in love and find new hope in a shared future together.  A complicated yet inspirational work as Johns introduces characters and lays the foundation for future books in the Amish community of Bountiful.  [Feb 2021]

Review of:  The Malt in Our Stars:  A Literary Pub Mystery

Sarah Fox

I love cozy mysteries and was eager to read this as I haven’t read this author or the other books in this series before.  But I was captured by the cute title and series premise!  I really liked the setting in Shady Creek, Vermont, and the descriptions of the manor house.  I also enjoyed the mystery involving a visit to the town by a well-known author and her assistant (who, of course, promptly gets murdered).  There were several plausible suspects and red herrings along the way as the protagonist, Sadie, uncovers whodunit and why.  However, I felt as though I were plopped down in the middle of the story right from the get-go as there was almost no backstory and a large cast of characters.  I’m not sure I know who Sadie really is and would have liked to see more development of the main characters and overall arc of the series.  Since this is a literary series I also would have liked to see more emphasis given to the theme.