An Amish murder mystery that takes 3 books to solve

By Alicia Cunningham

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15 2012 3:47 p.m. MDT

There are times when a trilogy or a multi-book series is needed to tell a story. Other times a single volume will work.

That should be remembered by several authors, including New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray, who has recently written "Missing" (Avon Inspire, $12.99) as well as "The Search" (Avon Inspire, $12.99), which are the first and second books respectively in "The Secrets of Crittenden County" series.

In "Missing," which is the first book and was released in March, Gray introduces readers to a community that is shocked over the murder of Perry Borntrager, an Amish boy who was killed and then dumped in a local dry well.

His death is painful to all members of the devout community who would rather forget it ever happened than help the police solve the crime. By probing into his death, the community is forced to realize that one of their own was not good, that he was doing bad things, that he was hurting members of their community and that he was bringing the very worst of the outside world onto their doorsteps.

"Missing" shares the stories of Lydia and Walker and reveals that they know more about Perry's disappearance than they are admitting. "The Search," which is the second book and published in June, primarily shares the story of Frannie, Perry's last girlfriend, but it also introduces two other characters with both a strong motive and apparent opportunity: Jacob and Micah.

"The Search" is more enjoyable than "Missing," as the storyline continues to develop and true motives begin to form.

Though the books are well-written, they are heavily dependent upon each other and it's difficult to enjoy them on their own. Together they equal more than 500 pages, and it can be frustrating to feel strung along in a very long murder mystery. Even written in a time when a reader just seems to expect a trilogy (or at least a multi-book series especially when there is a "book one" in the title), this particular murder mystery certainly does not seem to require three separate books.

At least they are being released three months apart. The third book in the series, "Found" (Avon Inspire, $12.99) is scheduled to be released on Sept. 4.

Both "Missing" and "The Search" are very clean. As many of the characters in the book are Amish, the language is clean and, as the murder occurred before the books begin their tale, they are also free of violence.

Alicia Cunningham is a graduate of Brigham Young University and George Mason School of Law. A mother of four, she teaches American government and intellectual property law at Neumont University. She blogs at bloggingonbooks.wordpress.com.

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