“In Dutch Again”

The first Granny Hanny mystery

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a b o u t    t h e   b o o k

Mystery reading and quilt making may seem like disparate interests, but irrepressible Amish grandmother, Hannah Miller, moves between them with enthusiasm. With her formerly Amish granddaughter, Caroline, now an attorney, Hannah adds a third one: solving murders. When Hannah finds her friend, antiques dealer Annette Adams, murdered, Hannah views it as more than coincidence. Annette's husband has recently disappeared.

Hannah and Caroline investigate Annette’s death; the list of suspects grows. Annette’s sister, a television commentator is a prime suspect, but she was hundreds of miles away. Annette’s ex-husband, embittered by a custody battle, and Annette’s estranged daughter, give each other alibis. The neighbors disliked Annette, but did any want her dead?

When Hannah discovers another body, the inept police assume a prowler is responsible.

“Murder does not piece together that neatly, ” Hannah tells Caroline. Like blocks in a quilt, Hannah and Caroline painstakingly stitch information together to find the killer’s identity. Unlike quilt making, murder investigation takes them deep into danger, deceit and death, and far away from the safety and tranquility of the Amish. They soon find only their own intelligence and perceptiveness can save them from a killer determined they will be next to die.

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read an excerpt from
“In Dutch Again ”
A Granny Hanny Amish Country Mystery

CHAPTER ONE

It was wedding weather in Amish country, crisp and exhilarating. There couldn’t be a better place to live, Hannah Miller thought as she crunched through a pile of maple leaves as red as the glow on her cheeks. Almost November and time for winter, time for weddings, and as Hannah would soon find out, time for murder.

Hannah, called “Granny Hanny” by just about everyone in Lancaster County, was Amish, and a well-known quilt maker. Today she was on her way to deliver a quilt to her non-Amish neighbor, Annette Adams. Hannah knew Annette was anxious for it, and the day was so sparkling, that Hannah decided to walk the mile separating her family's dairy farm from the Adams property to deliver it in person. She had another happy errand at the Adams anyway, to deliver a wedding invitation; her grandson, Josh was marrying Susannah Schuler the first Wednesday in November. Tuesdays and Thursdays in November were the traditional times for Amish weddings, but this year a few were being held on Wednesdays. Harvest was over and the Amish families could celebrate. Thinking of the wedding made Hannah smile in happy anticipation. The family had been through some sticky times to get to it.

Annette’s house sat on two acres of rich, loamy soil in the middle of what had once been a cornfield, and was now an empty, flat stretch of land looking curiously out of place, with only one huge maple tree and several dozen spindly, newly planted ones to keep it company. Although the house gave every appearance of “having some age,” as an antique dealer like Annette would say, it was a new home, finished only the previous summer. A large Victorian style farmhouse, surrounded on all sides by deep, cool, shaded porches, Annette had filled the inside with costly, authentic antiques and wonderful art and crafts. Hannah knew some folks thought it strange Annette wouldn’t spend the money to put in some big trees to match that lonely maple, for after all, she was a wealthy woman. But Annette's interest in the house stopped where the porch ended.

The house was Annette’s territory, and the yard, her husband Bob’s. An empty hole, destined for a swimming pool, and a half finished pool house remained as Bob had left them when he walked out of Annette’s life, and apparently off the planet, three months ago.

Hannah had known Annette, or Nettie, as she was nicknamed since she was a little girl (and one of Doc Hope’s identical twin daughters.) The twins, Nettie and Jennet, spent most of their childhood trying to fool people into thinking each was the other. Hannah could usually tell them apart. Annette was temperamental and usually into trouble while Jennet, or Jen as she was called, was sweet natured and always perfectly behaved. They reminded Hannah of one of her favorite Amish quilts, “Sunshine and Shadows.”

The grown up Nettie now owned a well-known antique store in Lancaster, and people traveled from all over the country to buy her early American and authentic Amish wares. She specialized in Amish quilts.

Jennet was now a renowned fashion commentator with a syndicated television show. She flew from one fashion capitol of the world to another interviewing the glamorous big names of haute couture. Being Amish, Hannah was amused at how much attention the “English,” the name Amish called anyone who wasn't Amish, paid to such stuff and nonsense. Still and all, Jennet made a good living from such silliness.

As Hannah approached the white painted steps of Annette’s porch, she was surprised at the accumulation of debris on the normally pristine porch. The wind had made a mess of the decorations. An ornamental scarecrow, carefully dressed in faded jeans and a plaid shirt had tipped over into the porch swing, looking for all the world like a drunk who didn’t quite make it home. A carved jack-o-lantern had tumbled over, its candle lolling impudently through the smiling mouth. Leaves littered the steps and huddled against the house. Despite being “English,” Nettie was normally as picky as any Amish housewife about her porch. This time of year it didn’t take more than overnight for leaves to accumulate, and it was obvious to Hannah Nettie hadn’t swept her porch that morning.

Hannah reached the front door and rang the bell. Silence was the only answer. Hannah rang again. The quilt, one of Hannah’s handmade masterpieces, was made to order to Nettie’s exacting specifications using more spools of thread than Hannah normally would, which insured more stitches to the inch and a heavily quilted piece. Hannah thought it was a beauty with a design of dozens of white snowflakes on a creamy white background. All white, and not light, Hannah thought, shifting the bulky bundle in her arms.

Nettie’s car sat in the driveway. She must be home. Nettie knew Hannah would have the quilt ready anytime and told her she would be home all that day and the next. Unlike Hannah, Nettie wouldn’t walk a block if she didn’t have to. Besides, there was nowhere to go. Town was five miles away.

Hannah set the quilt, carefully wrapped in white paper and tied neatly with cord, on the only piece of furniture still left on the porch from summer, a swing, and walked around the porch, calling Nettie’s name, then listening. The only sound was the drone of a small airplane high above in the cornflower blue sky.

One of Nettie’s few reactions to her husband’s disappearance was to install a high tech burglar alarm. Hannah had little idea how it operated except she knew it shrieked like a child with a nightmare, only louder, when it went off.

Hannah returned to the front door to try the bell once again. This time she pressed her finger to the bell and put her ear to the door. She heard the bell, and knew it worked. Once again there was no response from inside. Hannah was becoming increasingly worried about Nettie. What if she was ill, or had an accident? Hannah decided to examine the alarm.

Having entered several times with Nettie, Hannah remembered the control box, operated by a key, was out of sight behind a shutter. Easing it away from the porch wall, she saw the alarm box glowing green, indicating the system wasn’t activated. So, now what? “Try the doors, of course,” she muttered to herself, her voice echoing hollowly on the empty porch.

The front door was unlocked and she pushed it open, calling Nettie’s name. This side of the house, away from the light and deeply shaded by the cavernous porch, was as black as a moonless night. As she stepped into darkness, the door swung shut behind her with a heavy thud. Hannah jumped. Though not easily frightened, the sudden change from bright sunlight to the dark house unnerved her. For the first time it occurred to her she could be in danger. What if someone besides Nettie was in the house? She wished she could be like Daisy, her calico cat, and fluff herself out. She would like to look a lot bigger than her five foot, 100 pound self. But if someone was in there, she reasoned, he’d have trouble seeing her in the near darkness, small as she was and dressed in her Amish costume of unrelieved black.

She stopped calling, but advanced carefully, taking small steps onto the floorboards of the deep entryway, reaching out to avoid bumping into anything. She tried to remember the location of the lights. She recalled a panel of switches was next to the stairs by the banister. Her eyes were becoming used to the dark. There was obviously no one lurking or they would have dispatched her by now.

The wall loomed darkly in front of her as she reached out, fumbling for the switches. Suddenly, she slipped on something. She reached out for the banister, but her feet continued to slide and she fell to the floor with a thud.

It only took a minute for her to realize she wasn’t hurt and using the banister to steady herself, she pulled herself to her feet. Carefully, she edged towards the light switches, her feet slipping on what she realized was a wet, sticky floor. Now she realized her hands, too, were covered with the same stickiness.

She reached the panel of switches and pushed them all on at once. Light flooded the hall and the curved staircase. Hannah blinked, her eyes smarting with the brightness. She looked down at her hands. They were bright with blood. Blood oozed down the bare steps, and crawled like obscene worms onto the wide planks of the floor. Hannah’s eyes followed the gruesome trail to the top of the stairs.  “Gott im Himmel!,” Hannah choked out the words as she looked at a horrific sight. On the landing lay her friend, Annette Adams. A butcher knife protruded from her still, unmoving chest.

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This page updated October 19, 2014.
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