Another hot tip from her best informant, her mother, leads TV reporter Riley Spartz (Killing Kate, 2011, etc.) far from the Twin Cities to a murder among the Amish community in misnamed Harmony, Minn.
There was little enough chance of identifying the dead woman who’d been stripped naked, wrapped in a homemade quilt, and dumped in a sinkhole weeks before Josh Kueppers, 10, falls into the hole with the corpse and blows off her face with his shotgun in a panic. Since there are no photos available of the victim and the whole drama is playing out far from Channel 3’s market audience, Riley’s lecherous new boss, news director Bryce Griffin, isn’t eager to turn her loose on the story. But once the dead woman is identified as Sarah Yoder, 18, Riley persuades Griffin to send her back to Harmony, only to get predictably stiffed by Sarah’s mother, Miriam, Bishop Abram Stoltzfus and the rest of the closemouthed Amish. Only Linda Kloeckner, the Lamplight Inn owner who put up Sarah when she ran away from home shortly after committing her life to the community, and Isaac Hochstetler, who briefly employed her at Everything Amish, are willing to talk to Riley, and their information doesn’t do much to sensitize the reporter who asks her confessor, Father Mountain, whether ritual shunning by the Amish community is “worse than unfriending someone on Facebook.” No wonder a pair of attackers break into Riley’s room at the Lamplight Inn and (gasp!) cut her hair.
Riley’s obtuseness makes her a uniquely incompetent detective, an investigative reporter constantly surprised by developments less likely to ambush seasoned genre fans.