When the young gather to sing, it’s usually an evening of wholesome fun—but this time, the event has stirred whispers of scandal. Elsie Hostetler and her sweetheart, Dathan Bender, never came home afterward. There’s not even a trace of their horse and wagon, leading some to suspect that they’ve run off to marry and join the Englisch world.
But Rachel fears there’s more to the story than a rebellious elopement. Her fiancé, a state trooper, is out of town, so she starts investigating herself, using her Amish background to pry information from the tight-lipped community. It turns out things were not so peaceful between Elsie and Dathan—and there was also a confrontation at the singing with a short-tempered ex-Marine. Among the simple houses and quiet country roads of Stone Mill, Rachel must find out just what kind of sins have been committed—and who is need of forgiveness . . .
Praise for the Amish Mystery series
“An excellent addition to the Amish mystery subgenre.”—Library Journal
“An exciting tale of mystery, love, and danger.”—Booklist
“A well-informed look into the tranquil world of the Amish with a fairly edgy puzzler.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
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By EMMA MILLER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Emma Miller
All rights reserved.
"You shouldn't have insisted on supervising the sauerkraut making," Rachel fussed as she tucked her mother into bed. "That's why you're worn out. You know what the doctor said about getting your rest."
Esther Mast laid her head back on the pillow with an audible sigh of relief. Rachel smiled down at her before bending to kiss her cheek. Her mother's pale skin was warm against Rachel's lips, and her eyes glowed with the affection she found it impossible to show.
"Need another pillow?" Rachel asked. Her mother shook her head. "Want me to rub your feet?" Again, her mam signaled in the negative with a slight shake of her strong chin. Rachel smiled at her again. "Good night, then. I love you."
Esther's mouth tightened into a stubborn line. She closed her eyes and turned her back to her eldest daughter.
"Don't forget your prayers," Rachel admonished teasingly. There was no answer, but she didn't expect one. Her mother hadn't spoken directly to her in nearly seventeen years. Not since Rachel left her Old Order Amish family to become an Englisher.
Rachel crossed to the nearest window and pulled down the shade. Dusk was falling over the farm, and the dark shadows had already laid claim to the valley, sheltered by the mountains. Glancing around the peaceful room with its wide-plank floors, plastered walls, and old walnut dresser, her gaze kept being drawn back to the iron double bed. How small and vulnerable her mother looked, how unlike the strong, vigorous woman Rachel had known all of her life. The white elders' kapp that tied under her chin and covered what hair she had left made her appear even more fragile. "God bless and keep you, Mam," Rachel murmured.
Straightening her shoulders, she left the borning room, the downstairs bedroom that always smelled of mint and served for childbirth or sick or elderly members of the family. It seemed strange to see her mother sleeping there, rather than in the upstairs chamber that she'd always shared with Rachel's father. But everyone had agreed that the steep stairs of the old farmhouse would be a challenge for Esther just now. And it was easier for Rachel to care for her without climbing the steps.
Her mam's battle with breast cancer had made it necessary for Rachel to leave Stone Mill House, her bed-and-breakfast in town, to come home and help while her mother recovered from her latest round of chemo. But Esther was doing well; the oncologist said so. With prayer and the best medical treatment, there was every reason to believe that her mother would beat the disease and remain at the heart of her family for many years to come.
Rachel wrinkled her nose as she made her way down the hall and back to the kitchen, where her sisters were washing and drying dishes. The kitchen, unlike the other rooms in the house, was piled with clutter. No trash or dust accumulated, but empty canning jars stood on the counters, lids and rings filled bowls already holding pens, notepads, and recipe cards, and soup kettles and cast-iron frying pans rested on wide windowsills. More pots filled the cabinets, threatening to spill out when a door was opened. One of the cabinet doors always stood ajar.
"This whole house stinks of sauerkraut," Rachel observed. It had been a warm day for September, and the breeze had failed them. She wished she could turn on the central air. But in a house without electricity, there was no air-conditioning and no fans. Not that she didn't love her mother's sauerkraut; she did. But the smell was overwhelming. "Mind that pitcher," she warned her sister Sally. "If you drop it, Mam will have your head on a platter."
Eleven-year-old Sally, freckle-faced and full of herself, rolled her eyes. "I'm not going to drop it."
"She didn't dry it properly," their sister Amanda reported in a patient, matter-of-fact tone. "She just whisked the towel over it. See, Rachel. Water dripped all over the floor. And I just mopped it this afternoon."
Sally stuck out her tongue at Amanda, but Amanda simply went on rinsing off a long-handled dipper. "I told her to be careful. That spatterware pitcher came from Mam's grandmother," Amanda said. "It's one of the few things that survived the fire."
Tattletale, Sally mouthed silently.
"Hush, now, both of you," Rachel interposed. "Do you want Mam to hear you quarreling and come out here to settle things? I just got her into bed." She tugged tenderly at one of Sally's thick auburn braids, which had come unpinned from under her rumpled kapp and dangled down her back. "And you mustn't be so quick to snap at Amanda. She wasn't being mean. She was just thinking of Mam and how much she treasures that pitcher."
"I'm sorry," Sally said, "but she's such a goody-goody."
"Am not," Amanda retorted. "You know you're clumsy. I just didn't want you to get in trouble." She placed the ladle in the drying rack beside the dishpan.
"I am not clumsy!" Sally flung back. "You're always trying to be the boss of me."
Amanda's chubby face crumpled into an expression of hurt. "I'm your older sister. It's my duty to help you see what you've done wrong. And yours to listen to what I say."
Sally tossed her head. "You aren't my mother."
"All right. Enough," Rachel insisted. "I'll finish the drying. Sally, you run out to the chicken house and make certain that Levi fastened the door tightly. Aunt Hannah lost a hen to a fox last night."
Sally didn't need to be told twice. She flung off her apron and dashed barefoot out of the kitchen, her kapp strings flying.
"You shouldn't give in to her," Amanda said as the screen door slammed. "Because she's the youngest, everyone spoils her. But you'll do her no favors. What kind of wife and mother will she make?"
Rachel looked at Amanda and tried to hold her peace. Amanda was the model of what a properly-brought-up Amish girl was supposed to be: quiet, hardworking, a skilled seamstress, and more concerned with the next life in heaven than this earthly one. But since Amanda had been small, Rachel had found it difficult to appreciate her strengths. Amanda should have been born a Hostetler, Rachel thought. She would have fit in perfectly with their mother's family. The Masts, their dat's family, were mostly easygoing; they didn't break the rules so much as find more comfortable ways to follow them. Not that their dat wasn't solid in his faith, but he wasn't as quick to judge the Englishers or those of his own church who were a tad more liberal.
But here was Amanda, looking for all the world as if she might break into tears, while helter-skelter Sally had forgotten the fuss and was happily doing her thing. Rachel didn't expect to see Sally before evening prayers. If she knew her little sister, she had a romance novel stowed in the hayloft, and as soon as she made certain the chickens were safe, she'd be searching out her book. It wasn't exactly a forbidden pursuit, since Rachel, having bought the paperbacks for her, knew that they were Amish romances and suitable reading material for a girl her age. So why was it so much easier to find charity in her heart for the independent little sister than the dutiful one?
Feeling a pang of guilt, she gave Amanda a quick hug. "Sally's young," she murmured. "And you know she's always been more like Dat than Mam."
Amanda shook her head. "But she gets away with everything," she said. "Mam never let me —"
"You were a different girl," Rachel interjected, giving her another squeeze. "Being good comes easily to you. Sally is a wild rose, prickly and unpredictable, but every bit as sweet as you."
"I worry that she will stray from the fold when she becomes rumspringa," Amanda said. "Or leave us altogether, like you did."
Regret settled over Rachel's shoulders like a damp sweater. There was the nut of it. Amanda resented Rachel for choosing a worldly life rather than an Amish one, and Amanda feared that she would lead Sally to follow her, as their mother also clearly feared. And there was no answer that Rachel could give that would comfort either their mam or Amanda, because she'd often thought that if one of her siblings left the church, it might be Sally. Sally, who had such a desire for books and what lay beyond the boundaries of their family farm and the church community. "Each of us has the right to choose," she answered softly. "And I haven't left you altogether, have I?"
The cell phone vibrated in Rachel's apron pocket. "Mam may be awake still," she said to her sister. "She might like it if you went in and read the Bible to her. You know how she loves to hear you read the Psalms. She always says that you have the most soothing voice of all her children."
Amanda brightened. "I can do that. I'll just finish wiping down the counters."
"Ne," Rachel urged, falling back into the Deitsch dialect they usually spoke at home. "I'll do it. You go to Mother." Her phone vibrated again. She glanced at the clock that stood on the mantel. Could it be Evan calling? It was Friday, and she hadn't spoken to her fiancé since the beginning of the week.
The screen door squeaked, and boys' boots thudded on the porch. Rachel heard the raucous voices of her younger brothers, Levi and Danny. "Any more of that blackberry pie left?" one of them called.
Obviously, there would be no privacy for her to answer her phone here in the kitchen. And as the cell vibrated again, Rachel made a beeline for the bathroom, a last line of defense in her mother's busy household.
Rachel slammed the door, flipped the slide bolt, and answered her phone. "Hello?"
Nothing. Missed Call popped up on the screen. Evan. "Wriggling cabbage worms," she muttered, using her mother's favorite exclamation when something went wrong. She dialed back, but it went straight to voicemail. He must have tried to give her a quick call between lectures.
She wished she could have answered the phone when she'd felt the first vibration. There were no rules against her having a cell. She wasn't Amish. Not anymore. But her mother disapproved of the phone, and Amanda would have been certain to have reported the call to her. So she'd been a coward and not answered, and now, who knew when Evan could call back?
Rachel slid the phone back in her pocket and opened the bathroom door. She went out, and Danny rushed in. She returned to the kitchen, wiped down the counters, and tidied up as best she could. When she was certain that all was in place, she drew the white curtains and went out to take the laundry off the clotheslines, a task that should have been completed hours ago. How her mother did it all while raising nine children was more than Rachel could comprehend. And Rachel wasn't cooking nearly as much as her mother usually did. Neighbors were sending over casseroles, pies, hams, and roast chickens almost daily.
When all the clothes were folded and placed securely in the basket, Rachel stood a moment in the soft twilight, gazing over the fields and woods as her mother's favorite orange tabby rubbed against her bare ankles. Taking a deep breath, she let the familiar sounds and scents of the farm seep into her bones. Years ago, all she'd wanted to do was get away, but now the old patterns tugged at her heart. She swallowed, amazed at how easily she'd slipped back into her old life in the past few weeks.
There was peace here. And as much as she loved Stone Mill House and as much as she looked forward to marrying Evan and building her business at her B&B, she had to admit that being here was almost a vacation from her busy schedule. That thought was so crazy that she laughed out loud. A vacation? Caring for her mother, overseeing the house, canning green beans and corn, cooking for her parents and siblings, and keeping track of her brothers should have had her sound asleep before dark. But, strangely, it hadn't. She'd never minded physical labor, and it was fun being part of a large family. It almost made her wonder if she could have been happy remaining Amish and following the path everyone had expected her to.
From the meadow came the crack of a bat striking a ball, a dog bark, and excited shouts. Some of her cousins and probably her brothers Danny and Levi were playing ball. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine herself fifteen and there with them. English people believed that the Amish led austere lives, and that the children grew up without playtime. That was far from the truth. She couldn't think of anything sweeter than being an Amish child in the midst of a loving and faith-filled family. Their home had always been a place of prayer and hard work and laughter. She'd never gone to bed hungry or heard her parents argue. Even today, being here on the farm made her feel safe and cherished.
Soon it would be too dark to see the ball, and the kids would scatter to their own homes. Her father expected them in the house by nine for evening prayers and then bed. Morning came early on the farm, and breakfast was at seven, after milking and first chores. It probably wouldn't do her any harm to turn in early either. There were lima beans and late tomatoes to be picked, and the best time to work in the garden was before the sun was high enough to make it hot.
"There's that kitz. Your mother was asking where she was." Her father's voice cut through her thoughts. She looked up to see him strolling across the grass from the direction of the barn. He was a tall man with a long-legged stride and a short-cropped beard that was just starting to show streaks of gray. "You know how she is about her children and her cats. Wants to know where they are at bedtime."
Rachel smiled at him. She and her father had always shared a closeness, that in spite of the love she felt for her, her mam never experienced with her. Her dat was easy. He said what he thought, and he was always tolerant with ideas other than his own. "I imagine she's asleep by now."
"Ya, probably is." Her father spoke to her in English, as he usually had when she was growing up. He'd always wanted his children to be comfortable in the outer world, and she was certain that her familiarity with the language had helped her transition from an Amish farm to corporate America. "She looks goot, don't you think? Better than after her first round of chemotherapy?"
"Yes, I do," Rachel agreed. "She's going to beat this."
"I think so, too," her father said. "I believe it." He picked up the basket of folded clothes. "I don't have to tell you how much it means to her to have you here helping out while she recovers ... means to us all."
Rachel shook her head. "You don't have to say it, Dat. I know, and I know that she loves me, but ..." She shrugged. "You know how she is."
He smiled back at her. "And you know why she does it. You were her firstborn, and always dear to her."
"But we've always butted heads."
He chuckled. "And you think we haven't? My grossmama warned me, 'That Esther is a Hostetler. She won't be easy to live with for sixty years.'"
"But she's been a good mother," Rachel defended, keeping pace with him as he walked back to the house.
"And a goot wife. We're a team. Sometimes she pulls harder, sometimes me, but we pull the load together."
Rachel nodded. "I hope that it will be like that for Evan and me, too."
"He's a goot man, that one. For an Englisher. I'd rather he was Amish, but parents don't get to choose. Your mother was just asking me if you'd set a date for your wedding. You've been walking out with him quite a while."
"And I'm not getting any younger?" She said it lightly, but she knew that in her thirties, she was getting a little long in the tooth for a first-time Amish bride.
"I didn't say that."
"But I'll wager Mam has said it," Rachel replied with a chuckle. "But to answer your question, no, we haven't set a date. The English have longer engagements than our people. Evan has a friend who's gone with his girlfriend for six years."
"Sounds like a waste of time to me, time that could be spent making a home together, giving me grandchildren."
"Whoa." She laughed, throwing up her hands. "First comes love, then comes marriage. The babies come last, or they should."
Excerpted from Plain Missing by EMMA MILLER. Copyright © 2017 Emma Miller. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love these books, I hate to see them end , wish there were more
Plain Missing By Emma Miller Travel back to Stone Mill, Pennsylvania, where Rachel Mast, who left the Amish life for the English one, has returned home and opened a bed and breakfast. Join her as she struggles to see where she belongs and tries to find God’s plan for her. When her mom is diagnosed with breast cancer, she returns to the family home to assist in any way she can, while leaving her cousin Mary Aaron and her neighbor Hulda to look after the B & B. While there, her cousin Elsie and Elsie’s boyfriend Dathan go missing one night after a singing. With Rachel’s fiancé, police detective Evan, away at a training seminar, it is up to her and another detective to discover what happened. Most think the two ran away to the English world, but Rachel has a gut feeling that they didn’t. When the horse that was leading the missing couple’s wagon returns without them or the wagon, Rachel is even more convinced something went wrong that night. But, what is it? How can she find out? Who can she trust? Using her Amish background, she tries to find the answers. But, will she walk into dangers path herself? This was a great book and I really enjoyed it, just as I have the others in this series. You don’t have to read the whole series though. It stands alone and tells a wonderful story. I received this book from NetGalley for my honest review.
This is the fourth book in the "Amish Mystery" series. I have read one previous one, but you can read these books as standalone. There is enough history about the main character to follow her story. Rachel Mast, is a character that lives between two worlds. Born and raised Amish, she left home at seventeen to go to university and then went to live in the big city and work for Corporate America. When that did not pan out, she returned home, but not to the Amish home, she lives as an Englisher and runs a Bed & Breakfast as well as a gift shop in the nearby town of Stone Mill. She has recently returned to the family home to help take care of her mother who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, as well as the rest of the family. The interactions between Rachel and Esther Mast are quite funny, as her mother tries not to recognize her as part of the family. When her cousin, Elsie, does not return home from a "singing" on a Friday night, Elsie's sister comes to Rachel for help looking for her (Rachel has a jeep). When they do not find her, the consensus is that she and her beau, Dathan, have left the community to get married and live as "English". When Elsie's body is found a couple of days later, and Dathan's during Elsie's funeral, Rachel sets out to find out what happened. The detective in charge of the case quickly assumes it was murder, suicide and closes it. Rachel with the help of her cousin and her Detective boyfriend Evan, continue to investigate. This story is filled with mystery, suspense, and romance. Rachel's character is strong, loyal, smart, stubborn, persistent and loving. She is so caring of the Amish world and its traditions that they let her in, even though she has left the "Plain World" to live as an Englisher. The mystery in this story is well plotted and will keep you guessing as to who is the guilty party. I changed my mind on who it was a few times and I love when I think I have it all figured out only to be thrown in a different direction by the author. I did figure it out a bit before the reveal, and that made the story even more interesting for me as the motive and the act was another twist in itself. Definitely an author I will follow, especially as I learn more about the Amish life. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Plain Missing by Emma Miller is the fourth book in An Amish Mystery series. Rachel Mast is staying at her parents’ house to help take care of her mother, Esther while she is undergoing chemotherapy for her breast cancer. It is difficult because Esther refuses to talk with Rachel directly or let Rachel sit at the dining table with the rest of the family. This has been going on for over seventeen years. Late Friday evening, Rachel is sitting on the back porch when she notices a light bobbing across the field towards the Mast home. It is her cousin, Mary Aaron seeking Rachel’s assistance. Elsie, Mary Aaron’s sister, failed to arrive home from the singing. Rachel and Mary Aaron drive around to see if they can find Elsie and the man who drove her home, Dathan. After twenty-four hours, Elsie or Dathan are still missing and so are the horse and wagon. Rachel contacts Trooper Lucy Mars for assistance since her fiancé (and detective) Evan Parks is out of town. The police cannot do much since both parties are over twenty-one. The police believe that the pair decided to elope and escape into the English world. Elsie’s family knows that she would never do that. Rachel is determined to find out what happened to Elsie and Dathan. People in the community are keeping secrets, and Rachel is going to ferret them out. Plain Missing may be the fourth book in the series, but it can be read alone. The author provides the needed background information on Rachel and her family. The book is nicely written and, for the most part, easy to read. The pace was a little slow at times especially when Rachel was speculating. The author tried to make the mystery complicated, but it can easily be solved early in the story. There are several major clues in the book that assist readers in untangling the riddle. I give Plain Missing 3.5 out of 5 stars. We get to see what life is like in an Amish community for its members, outsiders, and young people who have yet to decide whether or not to join the Amish church. I can see the pros and cons for each choice. I cannot imagine, though, living without modern technology (it has to be different if you have never had it). I do wonder, though, if Amish are as naïve as they are made out to be in novels. Are the young people aware of the dangers in our society? While Plain Missing is a nice story, my attention was never fully captured by the writing. I just felt that something was lacking and that the book was too long. The ending was stretched out. I did appreciate the epilogue and the growth in Esther’s character.
Talk about mystery, this book will keep you guessing right to the last page, and with a surprise to warm your heart at the end. We are in Amish country and two of their own have gone missing, such speculation and very different views here, but fact remains that they are gone. We have a woman Rachel Mast who has, as the Amish say, gone English, and running the local B & B, but she is also a close to her cousin whom is one of the missing. You are going to chuckle about how her Mom treats her, talking to her through others, she can hear her, and that is often her retort, but this is how her Mom deals with her leaving the Amish faith. What happened to the two that are missing, and how could a horse and wagon also be missing? The answers are here, but it is going to take awhile to get them, with some sad events in between. I received this book through Net Galley and Kensington Books, and was not required to give a positive review.