I love the mystery series called The Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries (with recipes), written by Tamar Myers. The key character of the series is Magdalena Yoder who is Mennonite. She is an anomaly in her culture in that she is comfortable financially, runs an elite Bed and Breakfast called the PennDutch Inn, tends to view her clientele as “well-heeled & highfalutin”, and has a razor sharp wit that she, herself, doesn’t always recognize. After someone dies in the first book, initially thought to be from a fall down the inn’s narrow stairs, and the police chief goes on vacation leaving the investigation in the hands of a “dim deputy”, Magdalena begins sleuthing for answers since this kind of event could shut down her inn.
The book I am reviewing is titled Gruel and Unusual Punishment, the 10th book in the series. In this edition, an inmate in the local jail dies after being poisoned with arsenic in his porridge, which he had consumed at the PennDutch Inn. Of course, Magdalena cannot let this reflect negatively on her inn and joins the Bedford, Pa, police in looking for answers to this crime, particularly since the cook at th inn is her cousin.
One technique employed in these mysteries is the flash back to prior times where Magdalena has a current event trigger a memory that she describes in long-winded detail before coming around to the point of the story. In this particular story line, a wildly-dressed teenager shows up and declares herself to be Magdalena’s daughter. Of course, Magdalena, knowing she’s never been pregnant, interrogates the girl to learn how she came up with the wild idea. Her father turns out to be the man that Magdalena had once married only to learn that he was already married to someone else. She had remained a virgin until marriage only to have it turn out to be to a bigamist.
During her reflection of that marriage, she recalls the first time she saw a naked male body (that of her husband). In classic Magdalena style she states, “I still have nightmares, and Thanksgiving is forever ruined for me. I can’t even look at a turkey neck now without feeling embarrassed.” It isn’t often I laugh out loud while reading, but that did it for me! I also read the passage to my elderly mother who burst out laughing herself and often would chuckle in the days following, saying “I can’t even look at a turkey neck now.” It was a classic line that I’ll never forget!
Needless to say, Magdalena solves the mystery of who poisoned the victim, yet again protecting both her inn and reputation.
The stories in the series are a bit hokey, true. But they’re fun and each book contains recipes for various meal items that are served within. They are all a fun read, but this one in particular had me in stitches!