Since she was a little girl, Marisa Angelo has been haunted by the image of her mother walking away, suitcase in hand, to return to her Amish roots. Marisa and her “Englischer” father never saw or heard from her again. Now Marisa has received a shocking call from police. Her mother’s bloodstained suitcase was found hidden inside the wall of a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse.
Desperate for answers, Marisa heads to Lancaster County. But no one—not the police or Marisa’s tight-lipped Amish relatives—can explain what happened to her mother. Only one man is as determined as Marisa to unravel the mystery—Link Morgan, the handsome ex-military loner who found the suitcase in the house he inherited from his uncle. Now both Link’s and Marisa’s family members are implicated in the decades-old disappearance.
The secret lies somewhere in the quaint Amish settlement. But someone will do anything to ensure the truth remains hidden forever.
The is the second novel in the Amish Suspense series Ms Perry recently began and like the first novel, Murder on Plain Sight, this story brings the Amish Traditions and culture in direct clash with the outside world characterized as “English.” Link Morgan, brother of one of the main characters in the first novel, has now found an old suitcase that is fully packed and looks as if someone was ready to travel. When the case was opened it was discovered that it was the suitcase of Barbara Angelo, a woman who had left the Amish faith to marry Russell Angelo and to live in the English world. It is well-known that she left her husband and left behind her child, a daughter her friends admit she felt to be her greatest delight. Now that same daughter is grown and will leave no stone unturned to discover not only more about why her mother left but her present whereabouts. Only one problem: the people she knew best, her Amish relatives and friends, are totally unwilling to speak with her or share anything they remember about her mother as a person or why she might have left home and family.
This is another wonderful and complicated Marta Perry creation complete with loving and family-oriented people, a deep sense of the value of friends and loved ones, as well as individuals who seem to be a bit “off” in the negative sense. There is also the sad and poignant figure of Link Morgan who has recently returned from Iraq and a long convalescence after severe war wounds. His deep sense of failure in keeping his war buddies alive permeates his relationships with his family and his new friendship with Marisa Angelo, yet he is thrown together with her repeatedly because of their mutual need to solve the mystery of her mother’s suitcase and disappearance. Link’s mother made a significant appearance in the first novel and she is still that warm and caring mother-figure that inspired the characters in both stories to seek truth as well as find their true selves in the searching. There are clues throughout this book that point one way or another and the reader will not easily discern the solution of the mystery. This is not an erotic tale but it is filled with the kind of loving that inspires everyone to see the value in all kinds of relationships from the initial loving touch of a mother to the deep and abiding friendships that enrich anyone’s life who is privileged to be blessed with such.
Link and Marissa have continuing difficulties largely because he is constantly fighting his attraction to her and because her persistence is an on-going irritation to him. He has his goals and his life course set before him, but as she drags him away from his tasks to explore solutions to the mystery, he must face the long-term effects that his determination to leave home and family behind. While his mother keeps her counsel most of the time, Link’s brother is not so reticent and he is chafed and rubbed raw emotionally, little realizing that he is doing all this to himself.
This is one of those kinds of reads that merges romance with mystery and brings the best of both to the reader. Ms Perry’s novels are always studies in the clashes of culture, the inner workings of people’s minds and feelings, and the waxing and waning of relationships. It is so true in this story. It is the kind of book that inspires even as it meets head-on many of the prejudices we “English” have about the Amish and their life. As one who grew up in surroundings rich in the Amish influences of Eastern Pennsylvania, Ms Perry has brought her knowledge as well as her admiration of the Amish ways to bear in her stories. Readers would do well to pay attention as she gives readers the opportunities to know better these unique and delightful people, from their way of speaking to their sense of community that goes so far beyond what most Americans have ever experienced.
This was another very satisfying reading experience for me and I found I enjoyed that sense of connection with the first novel in this series. While both are stand alone stories, they compliment each other. I also liked the fact that the Morgans figured prominently in both books. They are people I would have liked to know in real life. The culmination of Link and Marissa’s attraction was somewhat speedy at the end of the book, but I have the feeling that readers will be able to follow their story as it unfolds in coming books in the series.
I give this novel a 4.5 out of 5.
This book is available from HQN Books. You can buy it here