The fourth book in the Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries with Recipes series, published in 1997.
A well-preserved corpse.
A twenty-year-old barrel of genuine Pennsylvania Dutch sauerkraut isn’t Magdalena Yoder’s idea of a great wedding present from her future father-in-law. Especially when it has a corpse in it. And it sure puts Mennonite-born Magdalena, owner of the picturesque PennDutch Inn, in a pickle. She has just one week before she ties the know with the man of her dreams – and this bride of forty-four will allow nothing to delay her nuptials, even murder.
Of course, Magdalena recognizes the victim, who is as well preserved as a gherkin. It’s her fiancé’s cousin Sarah, who’s been missing for years. Soon Magdalena’s inn is filled with unwanted guests – eccentric aunts and loopy uncles of the deceased. And Magdalena – shrewd as she is peppery – suspects one of them is the killer. Now she is over a barrel, blowing the lid off a mystery two decades old, and digging up a scandal that may shake her Amish hometown to the bedrock and send her to a funeral – her own – instead of her wedding day!
I am a little disappointed in this book, as it couldn’t hold my attention for long stretches. Magdalena is busy with the preparations for her wedding next Saturday, she even closed the Inn for the week! She and her cook Freni are busy planning the wedding dinner, when her future father-in-law brings over an old barrel of sauerkraut. Freni wants to check the contents to see if it is still edible after all those years, and then they find the body. Aaron’s missing cousin has apparently been there for the last twenty years.
Magdalena is determined to find out who killer her, she will not let this spoil her wedding! And she sure can’t count on their stupid chief of police, Melvin Stolzfuss to find the murderer. To her dismay, Aaron’s relatives who want to come for the funeral, have to stay at her Inn, at no cost! And they really are a very strange bunch.
Rumors are, Sarah’s mother eloped a few weeks before Sarah herself disappeared, and Jonas, their husband/father is estranged from the family, no-one knows where he is. But Magdalena manages to find out from rumors where she could find him, and is determined to invite him to the funeral of his own daughter.
But Jonas has secrets of his own, all this time he had in his possession his daughters diary. And he blames one of the aunts of her death. And refuses to allow her access to the funeral. But the diary gets stolen before anyone other than Magdalena can take a look at it. Things detoriate from there quickly, and the family is divided in two camps.
As always, I loved the interaction between Magdalena and Freni. I still think Aaron is a whimp, and Magdalena could find a better man. They will live together in the Inn, and Aaron will help her run it. She even agrees to take in his father, who is a real pack rat. He cannot throw anything away. Hence the 20 year old sauerkraut, and a house full of worthless things.
But she does take little crap from the rest of the family, for which I am glad. The real murderer was a surprise to me as much as to Magdalena, and I don’t think I could have figured it out myself earlier.