Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Shunning Sarah

Summary: An insular Amish town . . . A secret that won’t stay buried . . .

Minneapolis’s star investigative reporter Riley Spartz is constantly in search of her next TV sweeps piece. When she hears that a young boy is trapped at the bottom of a sinkhole, she smells ratings. Little does she know just how big the story will be—not only does it involve a tragic murder, but the local Amish community as well. Once Riley is on the case, though, she sees that solving it will be anything but easy.

When Riley finds a clue the cops have missed, she uncovers a dark web of fraud and deception in the community—driven by motives as old as the Bible: sex and money. Riley will stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice, and she is determined to do so before anyone—including herself—becomes the next target. -- Atria

One of the very best things about doing Mystery Mondays is that I discover new-to-me authors and mystery series. Case in point: I just read SHUNNING SARAH by Julie Kramer and really enjoyed it. SHUNNING SARAH is the fifth book in this series featuring television reporter Riley Spartz, and I found it to be a great murder mystery. My only issue is that I missed out on the first four books in the series, and now I have to find the time to go back and read them.

SHUNNING SARAH begins when Riley Spartz heads back to her her childhood home to get the scoop on a story about a a small boy who is trapped in a sinkhole. When she arrives to the scene, she discovers that the story had the potential to be big... really big. Thankfully the young boy has been rescued and is doing fine, but the body of a dead woman was also found at the bottom of the sinkhole.

Naturally, Riley's investigative instincts take over and she becomes even more interested in this case when she learns that the body is that of a young Amish woman named Sarah. As she begins to investigate this story, she learns that Sarah was on-the-outs with her family and had actually been shunned from the entire Amish community.

Despite having to fight her new producer for the right to cover this story (it is out of her viewing area and money is tight!), Riley begins to uncover some startling clues that have even eluded the local police department. Her investigation leads her into the darkest corners of this tight-knit Amish community and she finds that she has to solve the murder before she becomes the next victim.

SHUNNING SARAH was such a refreshing read for me. I've been craving (and reading) a lot of mysteries and thrillers this summer, and this novel still managed to keep me entertained as well as surprised. The mystery was interesting and I liked how Riley tracked down the clues and the murderer, but I also appreciated that there were a few twists to keep me on my toes. Overall, I'd say that I was more than impressed with the mystery aspects of this story and how the author gradually revealed the culprit.

In a mystery like SHUNNING SARAH, it's so important to have a likable amateur sleuth; and that was definitely the case for me with Riley. The novel was written in her voice and I loved her insights into life (and the crime) as well as her self-deprecating humor. I also enjoyed getting to know Riley through her relationships with her co-workers, her parents, as well as her love interests. Riley definitely had some chemistry with a few men in the novel, and I am very curious to read the next installment of this series to see what happens in her romantic life!

Moreover, I really liked that Riley was a television reporter because it gave me an insider's view into the very cut-throat world of television news. I appreciated seeing how the new producer was only focused on the cost of producing the show rather than the quality -- I had to laugh given our local news coverage here in Central PA. And I found it very interesting to learn that food and animal stories always score big with viewers.

Overall, I had a great time reading SHUNNING SARAH. I loved the characters and the mystery, and I am quite happy that I've discovered a new mystery series. I definitely hope to feature more of these books in future Mystery Mondays!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Serena said...

I love mysteries that reveal a bit about the main characters' backgrounds as they go along.

bermudaonion said...

This does sound really good. I think I'd enjoy the mystery and the peek into the Amish world.

Beth F said...

One of my favorite things about cozies is learning something about the world of the amateur sleuth. The Amish angle interests me too.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I like the Amish angle as well. But I agree - it's rotten to discover a great new series in the middle of it! :--)