Thursday, April 07, 2016

"Delivering the Truth" -- A Quaker Mystery

I admit it. I love a good mystery. And I love books with Quaker characters, if they're well written and not hokey like some of those... um ... genre sectarian "romances" ("Simple Love: A Mennonites Go Mad Book"). So when you put mystery and Quaker characters together, then I'm predisposed to like such a book.  As I did with Irene Allen's series of "Elizabeth Elliot" mysteries a few years back (Quaker Silence, Quaker Witness, Quaker Testimony, and Quaker Indictment). Those books are still favorites of mine.

So I was delighted to receive an advance review copy of Delivering the Truth: A Quaker Midwife Mystery (Midnight Ink, 2016) by Edith Maxwell (disclaimer: Edith is a Facebook friend of mine). I was especially intrigued to find out that Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier was going to make more than an occasional appearance throughout the book.  Poet as  a sorta sleuth?! Well, maybe that's not so far-fetched, I thought.

The story is set in 1880's Amesbury, MA where Quaker Rose Carroll is a midwife. As such, she is privy to many of the goings on around town. Plus she is an inquisitive sort who's feeling a bit restricted by society's expectations around women and the Society of Friend's expectations of dress, behavior, and more.  The conventions of her time and religion are a bit more than stifling -- and she often breaks out of the molds that society and the Society set for her.

For one, she falls in love with a non-Friend.  Yikes. That could get a Quaker kicked out of meeting -- especially if marriage loomed.  

For another, her inquisitive nature leads her into nosing around a series of mysterious deaths that come as a result of an arson at a carriage factory and ensuing events.  A modern Quaker woman like Elizabeth Elliot playing detective is not so unusual perhaps, but a 19th century Friends woman? This leads her into all sorts of situations -- which also result in her becoming one of the prime suspects in the murders!  Now that's my kind "bad Quaker." 

The mystery is mysterious (I had suspicions about what was going on, but couldn't exactly figure things out), the characters (even the "baddies") are well drawn (perhaps that comes from the Quaker belief that "there is that of God in everyone -- and Maxwell has drawn it out!), and the writing is spot on.  I pretty much read it straight through.  And had a hard time putting it down when Quaker midnight (10 pm) drew near. I stayed up late just to finish it.  And I never stay up late (as my friends/Friends know).

If you like mysteries (whether or not you like Quakers), you'll enjoy this tale well told. If you enjoy stories with Quaker characters, you'll like this honest portrayal of Quaker faith and life in the 19th century. And if you're fond of Quaker mysteries, then Delivering the Truth will be just your cup of Friendly fiction. 

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