Book Review: Lemon Drop Dead by Amanda Flower
By Doreen SheridanApril 30, 2021
Lemon Drop Dead by Amanda Flower is the sixth book in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series, where an already tense baby shower turns to murder and Bailey must investigate to clear the name of her hardworking assistant’s estranged sister.
The ladies of Harvest, Ohio, are all aflutter over the pregnancy of Swissmen Sweets shop assistant Emily Keim. However, her boss and friend, Bailey King, isn’t quite sure that the Amish Emily will be into the idea of having the baby shower that the non-Amish women are pushing on her. When Bailey asks Emily herself, the younger woman is hesitant but not for the cultural reason Bailey imagined. Over six years ago, the then unwed and teenaged Emily secretly gave up her firstborn for adoption, so she doesn’t feel right celebrating what most people think is the impending birth of her first child.
Once she’s eventually persuaded, she asks a favor of Bailey: to invite her estranged sister Esther Esh to come celebrate as well. Esther is a hard woman who has never forgiven Bailey for “stealing” her sister from working at the family pretzel shop and for being, in her opinion, a bad influence on the local Amish. Despite Bailey’s best efforts, Esther is a no-show, but an unexpected guest causes more than enough drama to make up for it. A mysterious Amish woman wants to talk to Emily about the child she gave up but disappears before Bailey can figure out who she is and where she came from.
The answers to those questions, however, become all too important when a terrified Esther comes banging on the door of Swissmen Sweets later that night begging Bailey for help. The mysterious woman is in Esther’s store and is quite dead.
Once the cops have been called and her initial terror has subsided, Esther refuses any further aid from Bailey—never mind that Esther is now the prime suspect in the woman’s murder. Bailey tries to inquire about the dead woman’s identity in order to help protect the sisters, but Esther is adamant:
“Emily does not know who the woman is,” she snapped.
“Then how does [the dead woman] know her?” I asked as the car came to a stop.
She opened the car door. “I have said enough.”
“Esther, I can help you if you’ll let me,” I heard the pleading in my voice.
“I don’t need any help from an Englischer.” With that, she got out of my car and stomped towards the small ranch home.
[I] sighed as I turned onto the street. Esther might think she didn’t need my help, but this wasn’t the first time I’d been a witness in a murder investigation. I knew the rules, and she did not. She needed my help, and she needed it badly.
Bailey’s experience with murder investigations comes from having found herself embroiled in quite a number since returning to Harvest to work in her grandmother’s candy store. And while she’d ordinarily leave the curmudgeonly Esther to her own devices, she can’t refuse Emily’s plea to clear her sister’s name. Once more, Bailey must involve herself in solving a murder, with or without the help of her beau, Deputy Sheriff Aiden Brody, who’s coming to a career and possibly personal crossroads of his own.
I was genuinely mystified as to whodunnit until near the end of Lemon Drop Dead when all the pieces came together, leaving room for interesting interpersonal developments down the line for the inhabitants of Harvest. I also learned more about the Amish than I’d known before. While I’m familiar with the Amish practice of buying retired and unwanted racehorses for their buggies, I, like Bailey, hadn’t known that Amish harness racetrack riding was a thing.
Until I’d moved to Holmes County, I didn’t know that the Amish participated in any kind of racing. Horse racing was synonymous with gambling, and gambling didn’t seem to be a very Amish activity to me.
But this racetrack wasn’t exclusively Amish. It included Amish harness racing and English thoroughbred riders. If the race schedule that was nailed to the worn wooden wall by the entrance was any indication, it was a busy place, and the Amish races only happened twice a week. The rest of the time, the track was dedicated to everything from dressage to horse racing to lessons[.]
I wondered if Amish horse racing involved gambling.
I was also pretty surprised by the treatment that people with disabilities were given by large numbers of the Amish community in this book. I’d always been under the impression that the Amish were extremely practical about disabilities and expected members of the community to pitch in as they can.
This sixth novel of the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series certainly felt like a deep dive into the less savory side of Amish life, in contrast to the lighter tone I’ve experienced in the author’s previous books. It will certainly be interesting to see where Amanda Flower goes next with this series.