Quaker midwife Rose Carroll hears secrets and keeps confidences as she attends births of the rich and poor alike in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town. When the town’s world-famed carriage industry is threatened by the work of an arsonist, and a carriage factory owner’s adult son is stabbed to death with Rose’s own knitting needle, she is drawn into solving the mystery. Things get dicey after the same owner’s mistress is also murdered, leaving her one-week-old baby without a mother. The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier helps Rose by lending words of advice and support. While struggling with being less than the perfect Friend, Rose draws on her strengths as a counselor and problem solver to bring two murderers to justice before they destroy the town’s carriage industry and the people who run it.
There is a sub-genre of fiction called 'Amish fiction'. And it seems to be popular amongst us cozy mystery readers. Do we look back on 'simpler times' where people grew a good portion of the food they ate and traded goods and services with their neighbors? When you could let your children walk to school by themselves? When family members talked to each other instead of texted or emailed? When you could actually hold a book? (I had to add that one in there.)
And this is not my first experience with this author. I read a book under one of her pseudonyms, Flipped for Murder by Edith Maxwell, one of the "Country Store Mysteries". We have Amish in our rural county here in Kentucky, and a Mennonite church within walking distance. The closest Quaker church, or Society of Friends is in Berea. So I don't have a lot of experience with Quakers, even though I was born in Pennsylvania, which was named after William Penn, a Quaker of note back in colonial times.
Delivering the Truth is set in the late 1800's. Rose Carroll is a single woman, who is a midwife, and attends many births. And not only that, she did pre- and post-natal care of mother and child. Her fee was $2.00 (yup, you read that right), and even though this was more than a century ago, by comparison the bill for the three weeks my premature daughter (32 weeks) spent in the hospital in 2003 would probably make poor Rose faint. And if her clients could not pay the 'entire amount' at one time, she was flexible with payments. You just don't find that today.
Being present at the birthing main event, Rose was in a position to hear, or see or otherwise notice some things that maybe people would not say to the authorities. She cared about her community, Quakers and non-Quakers alike. She was known for her business proficiency, her character and the 'old style' in which she talked. (Rose used 'thee' instead of you - a lot.) Her town was noted for building carriages, which supplied many jobs to the men and women of the area.
One day, a fire starts that spreads to most of the businesses that built carriages, decimating the manufacturing of such items, and putting many people out of work. Shortly thereafter, one of the owner's sons was found killed, having been fatally stabbed in the neck - by one of the decorated knitting needles Rose received from her mother. Luckily, the local constabulary did not believe she was guilty, but that needle did have to be explained.
One unmarried young woman in town was one of Rose's clients. Rose was surprised when she paid 'the entire $2.00' when Rose arrived to assist with the birth. But a week or so later, this young woman was also found dead, and her child was left without a mother (or a father, really, since he was not really in the picture at the time). Rose did not judge her - which was probably unusual for that age. It is also one of the endearing things we learn about Rose in this book. Also, her problem-solving skills were amazing, especially the best available solution for the care of the infant left behind.
She also treated the one young man, who was just 'not quite right' as a person, a lot better than most of the community did. The stigma of mental illness seen back then is still present today - although the normal course of action is not to house people like animals any more - and thank goodness for that. (I worked with adults with MR/DD for several years and the underlying prejudices are still there, more's the pity.)
The insights Ms. Maxwell gave us into the Quaker lifestyle were fascinating to me. 'Unprogrammed worship' takes place when most of the meeting is in silence, until and unless someone feels inspired to share something. Some services may be totally silent; others may have multiple speakers. What some would call 'praying for someone' in mainstream Christianity and other world religions was 'holding people in the light'.
I'm looking forward to finding out what happens with the 'mutual admiration society' going between Rose and the town's handsome, non-Quaker doctor. Rose's parents are deceased, but Rose went to be introduced to her beau's parents, whose mother actually reminded me a lot of my own mother!
Ms. Maxwell weaves a sturdy cloth from the stories of the various characters in Delivering the Truth. There are Quakers and non-Quakers, men and women, young and old, those with good motives and people with not-so-noble motives. Visiting Rose's town is like wrapping yourself up in one of your Grandma's comfortable quilts. While it may not make you invincible, it surrounds you with love.
Now that Rose has officially been cleared of murder (by the capture of the real culprit(s)), hopefully she can look forward to a happy, lengthy life of love and delivering babies!
MEET THE AUTHOR
Agatha-nominated and Amazon best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries (as Tace Baker), as well as award-winning short crime fiction. Maxwell lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)