Know two things up front about Gray’s new Secrets of Crittenden County series of which this is book one: The plots and subplots go unresolved in this volume, and this is a short, introductory story. If it doesn’t bother you to pay $12.99 for the beginning snippets of a story, then this might be the series for you.
Gray, one of the queens of Amish romance, veers off into crime detection in Amish country in her new series. In the first chapter a group of young non-Amish girls trespass on an Amish farmer’s field to sneak a smoke, only to find the body of a missing Amish young man. This brings turmoil to the community and a Cincinnati police inspector on leave because of a gunshot injury.
When Abby Anderson discovers Perry Bontrager’s body in an abandoned well in Miller’s field, deputy sheriff Mose Kramer calls his academy buddy detective Luke Reynolds for help. While Abby slightly knew Perry, her brother Walker worked with him at Schrock’s Variety Store while Walker was in high school and Perry was courting Lydia Plank. The story centers around Mose and Luke’s investigation as well as the lives of Perry, Abby, Walker, Lydia, and Mr. Schrock.
While Abby is trying to reconcile her finding Perry’s body, she feels alienated from her friends and classmates so much that she runs to her brother Walker and her Amish grandparents for comfort. Walker, however, isn’t much help because as a freshman at the local junior college, he’s feeling pressure from not only his studies but his guilty feelings about rejecting Perry’s friendship.
Amish Lydia is also feeling pressure from rejecting Perry and because her parents have just dropped the bomb that she was adopted. Inexplicably she turns to Walker to vent her angst when she thinks she’s not really part of her family.
Working upstream, Luke, who as an outsider isn’t getting the answers he needs, also feels the pressure to solve the case and help the community find closure. As Lydia and Walker become closer and closer, Luke is caught off guard by his feelings for his landlady at the bed and breakfast where he’s staying, then stunned when he discovers she knew Perry well.
If all of this sounds very convoluted and confusing, you can imagine what it’s like to read it, digest it, and then find that there are no resolutions to any of the situations: Not to Lydia and Walker’s tentative courtship, not to Mose and Luke’s investigations, not to Abby’s religion dilemma, and certainly not to why someone would kill Perry even though the police suspect he was a drug user and possibly a dealer.
While the characters are believable and compelling, and the story is intriguing, getting to the last page with literally all the plots up in the air is sure to disappoint even the most loyal Gray fans. Suspecting that they’ll have to pay at least $12.99 each for another two installments (The Search coming in June and Found coming in September) to get closure might make readers leery about anteing up for this book.
In the past, I’ve enjoyed Gray’s writing and have looked forward to her next book. In this case, however, I don’t care enough about Lydia, Walker, Abby, Mose, Luke, and especially the dead Perry to read what happens next.