cover image Three Can Keep a Secret

Three Can Keep a Secret

Judy Clemens, . . Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (244pp) ISBN 978-1-59058-184-1

Stella Crown is trying to hold body, soul and Pennsylvania dairy farm together when help comes in the form of a young Mennonite widow, Lucy Lapp. Stella takes to strong-willed and fearless Lucy immediately, but is also suspicious: as soon as Lucy moves to the farm, all manner of strange things happen. Teens coat the garage in nasty graffiti; Stella receives an anonymous phone call urging her to look into her "new hire's past." Stella begins to suspect the worst—did Lucy's husband really die accidentally, or did Lucy murder him? Stella tries to nail down the circumstances of Lucy's widowhood, but Lucy is evasive. Indeed, Stella's willingness to put up with her employee's prevarications is the one flaw in an otherwise engrossing, strong mystery: most small-business owners would insist on getting to the bottom of things sooner. Still, the novel's conclusion, which reveals the reasons for Lucy's hedging, is satisfying and surprising. Subtle local color—controversy between two fissiparous Mennonite churches—is an added plus. In this second Stella Crown mystery (after 2004's Till the Cows Come Home ), Clemens has a winner. (July)