Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Crepes of Wrath

     Murder mysteries and food are two things that have evolved into a tasty combination in this particular genre of fiction. Not that it's the first of its kind I think, but I have to say that among the authors out there, Tamar Myers is one of the best of the bunch.

     The main character, Magdalena Portulaca Yoder, is a Mennonite woman with Amish ancestry. How's that for a potent mix in one's heritage. In this, the ninth of Ms. Myers' Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries, Ms. Yoder yet again manages to get involved in solving the murder of one of the members of their very close knit community. And when I say close knit I mean they're bound by blood and not just by social ties. Though not a member of law enforcement or trained in any way to do detective work, Magdalena does manage to solve the case. There is the usual getting into danger right before the murderer either confesses or tries to get away. This kind of scenario can tend to get rather dull and hohum after reading so many novels of this kind, but the way Tamar Myers goes about telling the whole tale makes it so entertaining.

     What initially drew me to this series is the way the titles were made. I love any play on words like puns or parodies. Each title of the Penn Dutch series is a pun or parody of a well known title of a movie, book or play. The other thing was that each title also relates to cooking, to food. Now I know there are other series out there with the same combination, but somehow this one really appealed to me. The way the characters are drawn, the interactions between them, show (for me) such silly wit and humor that I can't help but laugh while I'm reading. Magdalena's quips that her fellow Amish and Mennonite find so bewildering make for some hilarious dialogue. Myers pokes fun at the community and culture, but not to the point of being irreverent or insulting. In a way, she invites you to take a peek at what it's like to live in such a society from an insider's point of view.

     Though admittedly not in the league of Doyle or Christie, Myers' Penn Dutch series makes for an enjoyable (and tasty, if you are ever inspired to try the included recipes) way to pass an afternoon.

© Margj Castillo, In Review, 2010 - Present.

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