Review

A Perfect Square: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery

by Vannetta Chapman

Even though I had been looking forward to the second installment of Vannetta Chapman’s Shipshewana Amish Mystery series, I wondered if it would live up to the first book. I adored FALLING TO PIECES, but I am thrilled to say that A PERFECT SQUARE not only lived up to its predecessor, it is even better.

"A PERFECT SQUARE flows effortlessly. The mystery is compelling, with plenty of twists, turns, and unexpected links in the storyline. The writing is fun, and the author does a marvelous job of portraying a nice blend of both the Englisch and Amish lifestyles."

Once again, the story centers on a pair of unlikely friends.Callie Harper is an Englischer (non-Amish) businesswoman from Houston, Texas, who recently moved to Shipshewana to run her late aunt’s quilt shop. Deborah Yoder is an Amish wife and mother, dedicated to her family and her faith. The two wind up in the middle of a mystery, this time involving Reuben Fisher, an upstanding member of the Amish community. When an Amish teenage girl’s body is found face down in the pond, Reuben is arrested for her murder. The investigation is complicated by the fact that Reuben knows something but isn’t talking. Callie and Deborah know he’s innocent, and they set out to prove it.

The victim is a stranger to Shipshewana; no one has seen her before. Readers are given more information than Deborah and Callie. We learn the girl’s name --- Katie --- and are offered a glimpse into her life through flashbacks from a boy named Samuel, who Katie married only days before. We know that Samuel is somehow tied to Katie’s death, but we don’t find out how it all unfolded until the end of the book.

In the midst of the mystery, there are several subplots, including the wedding of Deborah and Callie’s friend, Esther Zook, a widowed mother who found love again with Tobias, Reuben’s cousin. There is also a bit of romance for Callie herself, as she experiences feelings for a couple of different Shipshewana men --- both of whom happen to be in law enforcement. Because it hasn’t been that long since her husband Rich died, Callie is cautious when it comes to falling in love again and wants to take things very slowly. What makes this romantic thread even more enjoyable is the fact that the man Callie feels most drawn to also has a tendency to infuriate her.

One of my favorite subplots involves Ira Bontrager, an elderly man who shows up at Callie’s quilt shop out of the blue, asking her to look for his daughter (dochter), who supposedly went missing some 40 years ago during the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes. It seems that the man has a form of dementia, so Callie doesn’t know how much she can believe, but she feels in her gut that she needs to help him. This story is tender and touching, so keep the tissues handy.

A PERFECT SQUARE flows effortlessly. The mystery is compelling, with plenty of twists, turns, and unexpected links in the storyline. The writing is fun, and the author does a marvelous job of portraying a nice blend of both the Englisch and Amish lifestyles. The characters are well-rounded, and the friendship between Callie and the Amish women --- particularly Deborah --- is endearing and plausible. It makes me want to get in my car, drive to Shipshewana and befriend these women who may be “simple,” but whose faith and convictions are no less than remarkable. God (or Gotte) is always at the center of their lives and is also the core of this novel.

Vannetta Chapman weaves and intertwines the events of A PERFECT SQUARE in a clever and entertaining way that, in my opinion, is as close to perfect as you can get. MATERIAL WITNESS, the third book in the series, is scheduled for release in September, and is one to anticipate.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on April 22, 2012

A Perfect Square: A Shipshewana Amish Mystery
by Vannetta Chapman