5 September 2012

Review: Material Witness by Vanetta Chapman

Mrs Knepp, the ornery owner of the one of the two quilt shops in Shipshewana, Indiana, is found dead outside Callie Harper's quilt shop, and the only witnesses are a dog and a disabled seven-year-old boy. Callie soon hears from the murderer, when he drugs her dog, tears up her apartment and threatens to harm the boy if she doesn't turn over the money. It is an obvious case of mistaken identity because she doesn't have 'the money', but can the police find the murderer before he makes good on his threats?

Meanwhile, Callie and her Amish friends, Deborah, Melinda, and Esther, have received a strange commission in the will of old Mrs Hochstetler: to restore and sell three antique quilts. The quilts are not in traditional Amish patterns, and they seem to present their own mystery to solve.

Material Witness was good, but not as good as the other two books in the series. Although I liked the way the plot lines all came together at the end, the last couple of chapters almost felt a little rushed, as if something had been cut out to make way for the required epilogue that ties up all the loose ends. I think I would rather have had more detail around the puzzle surrounding the quilts, and have left the relationship a little more vague. But the thing I really liked about this series was still present: a positive presentation of mature Amish women, as I am over the teenage Amish romances that have flooded the market in recent years.

I understand that Material Witnessis the final of Vanetta Chapman’s Shipshewana Mysteries, following Falling to Pieces and A Perfect Square (both previously reviewed on this blog). While I have enjoyed this series, I am pleased for the residents of Shipshe (pop. 600), who might have wanted their small town to retain its name as a well-known shopping destination, not a potential murder capital! However, (fictional) murder in small Amish towns is obviously a trend that is catching on, as I have another book in my review pile from another author that is also set in Shipshewana, so this won’t be the last time I visit (in a literary sense). And I hope that the author will consider writing a similar series in another location, because I do enjoy these mystery novels.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free book for review. You can read more about Vanetta Chapman on her website.

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