Nal, Feb 2002, 19.99,240 pp.
Magdelena Yoder is a forty-something year old woman who owns and operates the Penn Dutch Inn in Hernia, Pennsylvania, a town that is home to mostly Amish and Mennonite families. Magdelena, a devout Mennonite, is one of the richest persons in the county. She doesn't flaunt her wealth preferring to run her Inn and to occasionally involve herself with her law enforcement brother in law's homicide investigations.
Usually, Melvin, the chief of police, wants Magdelena to keep her big nose (literally) out of police business. However, when Clarence Webber dies of arsenic poisoning in the city's jail cell, he pleads with his sister-in-law to help him out. Since he is running for Congress, it would be very embarrassing for him if this comes out and he doesn't have a suspect in hand. Magdelena takes the case because it was her Inn's food that contained the arsenic and she doesn't want this to ruin the image of the Penn Dutch Inn. Finding the killer is like searching for a needle in a haystack because Magdelena finds everyone who visited him in jail had a motive to kill him.
GRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT is a very funny amateur sleuth mystery that draws on the Mennonite and Amish life style to provide a colorful background to the story line. The protagonist's brash attitude combined with her innocence in the mating game rings true and makes her very endearing to the audience. Tamar Myers has written another tasty culinary mystery.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner