Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth is a 1995 Publication. (In other words, this book is a year older than me, give or take a couple months probably.)
Confession time! I have this guilty pleasure for Hallmark movies, especially the Hallmark mystery movies. I’m in that boat with my mom and my dad both though, so it’s not as bad as it sounds – or maybe that makes the whole situation worse.
But yes, that guilty pleasure leads me to books like the Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries. Something I love about both Hallmark mysteries and the Pennsylvania Dutch series is that the series are made up of stand alone stories. I can read any of the Pennsylvania Dutch books in any order and I won’t be all that confused about anything. I can watch any Hallmark mystery out of order of the series without ever having seen another episode of that series without being confused. It’s awesome! In fact, the first Pennsylvania Dutch book I read was in high school: Play it Again Spam!
These sort of books take after the old dime store novels in the way that they are written to be consumed. It took me only 5 hours to complete this book from the time I started it… sometimes you just need a fast no-brainer read.
Plot and Pacing
Miss Magdalena Yoder, an old order Mennonite woman, is the owner/proprietress of the Pendutch Inn, a quaint and popular bed and breakfast located in the very heart of Amish country Pennsylvania. When she inadvertently books both a party of hunters and a party of animal rights activists only murder can ensue.
Faced with a bumbling Police Chief fill-in who couldn’t pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel, Magdalena is forced to investigate the mystery herself.
The book is well paced, a quick and easy read. Each turn of the page leaves you with new questions as you try to solve the mystery yourself.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
Mysteries can be hard to write, if the reader can’t look back and in hind sight see all the clues that led to the murderer then you haven’t done it correctly.
Tamar Myers managed it better than some. It was very well done and while it’s no thriller, it’s perfect for a cozy mystery! This is the perfect kind of book for curling up with a blanket and a cup of tea/coffee/cocoa/whatever during the cool fall nights that are about to be upon us here in Indiana.
As the blurb on my cover of the book points out – middle volumes are hard to pull off. Especially when a middle volume is part of a trilogy.
Frankly, I wasn’t as thrilled with this book as I was with the first volume in the series, but it had it’s high points and its low points. overall it was a worthwhile read and definitely worth the money spent on it. It’s also a book that I would happily return to again… though whether or not that happens will depend on my impressions of the third and final installment of this trilogy (Spellbreaker) . Which should be arriving in my mailbox sometime in early October!
Plot – Pacing
Like the first novel in the series the events of the story take place over the course of just a few days, 10 years after the first novel ends.
Cleric Francesca DeVega is a healer working in the city of Avel. When a patient dies on her operating table and then comes back to life she is shocked to say the least. This patient throws her into the events of the story where she is forced to work with an ex lover and also thrown into association with none other than the main character of our first installment, Nicodemus Weal.
She is dragged into the demon’s plot to take over and begin the war of disjunction and in the process discovers things about herself she never knew before.
Overall the book was well paced, and added well to the pacing of the series. Being set 10 years after the first novel lent a sense of realism to the story. In fantasy books the major events all tend to happen rapid fire and in a short amount of time, a war can be won in a year or less. Charlton does well to spread out the major events and show the passing of time in his story by allowing struggles and mundane things to occur between books.
It was at first a little difficult to get into, the book having a different main character than the first novel, a rare sight in any genre, but once you got into it and started really reading it the pace and plot took over and carried you into Charlton’s fictional world just like the first book.
There were a few events that happened abruptly and I have to say that I don’t have a strong negative or positive opinion of them.
The events in question were events that caught me off guard as a reader but as a writer I know that Charlton likely wrote those sections to be abrupt so that we might experience them in a similar manner as the characters, who likely also found them to be abrupt – that’s life after all.
Their abruptness did anger me in the moment, as I was afraid that I skipped a page or two in my hasty turning to take in more of the story, but after a few more pages and realizing that nothing was skipped my writer brain took over and I understood what had been done.
Representation – A few spoilers here Indicated in italics with a preceding *** and followed by the same to indicate the end
One of the things that drew me to the first book in this series was that oh so rare element in fantasy novels, the representation of disability. In the first novel we saw Charlton representing his own disability of dyslexia in an engaging and believable manner for the fantasy genre. So well in fact that those who are unaware of what dyslexia is might not have realized what he was doing. He even managed to represent in that novel the discrimination and prejudice against such disorders as dyslexia.
*** This is a bit of a spoiler but I’ll try not to give too many details about where and how in the book this occurs.
The second disability represented in this novel, that I have rarely seen covered in any type of fiction, was deafness. Though it did not come to light until later in the book it was an interesting representation and from accounts I’ve been given from people in my life who are deaf or hearing impaired, it was a well executed job. ***
So often in the all-too-rare books where disability is touched upon it is an obstacle or plot point to be overcome, one of the gatekeepers in the typical story structure and by the end of the book the characters are living happily ever after.
I am happy to report that in this story, that was not the case. It’s an encouraging thing that the disabilities while briefly touched upon as an obstacle were not one of the bad guys in this novel. In fact, the disabilities of these characters made them stronger and more able to accomplish their roles in the story. While at first their disabilities did seem to be an obstacle to overcome it was wonderful to see them painted as anything but evil and wrong.
I’ve given this book 4/5 stars. It is well written and the story is so far being very well executed. there were some places where plot transitions and point of view changes were rather abrupt, but it all had a purpose. (Even if it took me a little bit to see that.)
Charlton is an amazing author and he has done very well to represent different disabilities in his writing, a rare sight in any genre, but especially in fantasy.
This is not a book to skip, especially if you have already read the first book and need to know where the overall story is going to go! I definitely look forward to the next book arriving in my mailbox soon!
This first installment of Blake Charlton’s fantasy trilogy came out in 2010. I picked up the book in 2014 at Barnes and Noble while I was in a book buying binge and only now have worked my reading list into a manageable enough level to find it again. (I’m broke and can’t keep buying books/building the stack this was buried in.)
As a writer myself the idea of a fantasy world where magic is based on the written word intrigued me to no end. I just had to pick it up. What’s more, seeing a “disability” like Dyslexia being represented so well in a work of fiction, a medium well known for excluding disabilities, was amazing to see.
Nicodemus Weal was once thought to be a savior. When his inability to properly wield magic was discovered it eliminated that possibility. When he and the wizard under which he apprentices are framed for murder it is all he can do to stay alive and try to figure out why the real killer is after him, a nobody that can’t be anyone’s savior.
I’m giving this book 4.5 out of 5. It was an amazing read and well paced. There were several Point of View transitions that were difficult to follow if you weren’t paying attention, but if you were they lent beautifully to the suspense of the novel and made it all worthwhile. I definitely recommend this read and look forward to the next two books in the trilogy and finding out how this prophecy unfolds.