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SURPRISE! This is actually the conclusion of the Crittendon County, Kentucky series! If you felt a little unfulfilled as I did with Number 3 "Found," do get this one!
It is Christmas, time for sharing love, and hope.
In it, Gray takes us through the grieving process of several affected characters in the shocking aftermath of Perry Borntrager's murder, including and especially, the son and family of the "murderer" whose anger was understandably human, but whose strategy
for self survival was so contrary to the Amish values of honesty, admitting wrong, personal responsibility, family solidarity, I felt a bit sick, and very sympathetic toward the son's mourning (mourning includes anger and grief) steps. This was incomplete for me, as the "murderer" was willing to have the blame fall on his son, even if it meant an untrue
conviction, subsequent jail sentence, and throwing over of a father's hopes for his family!
It didn't seem consistent within the character, and he was given no voice to express what went on inside. This part of the story, how the "murderer" was dealt with was given only brief brushing, and for me, did not well support the later happy ending. Maybe there's a lesson there, that when we cannot forgive ourselves, the love and forgiveness of those whom we've harmed helps us to that state.
The bulk of the story, which gives such weight to the title "Peace" is dedicated to (darling!) Beth, who is helping out her friend, Frannie while away for Christmas with new husband, former Chicago investigator and friend to Mose, local sheriff, Luke. Even though Beth says she can't cook or clean very well, she seems to grace the Yellow Bird Inn with a warm, upright and attractive presence, that makes her look very much at home. Truly, I am so taken with her character, I wish I could purchase lessons!
Chris Ellis, undercover DEA agent, who showed up previously when Beth was helping out Frannie, has been badly injured after his cover was blown. Knowing he has to seek a hidden refuge, his instincts, not his reason, seem to guide him to Crittenden County, and specifically the Yellow Bird Inn.
The first time they met and connected (with a lot of electricity), Chris had to say a final
goodbye, thinking he would either die young, or become someone he didn't like, and lose his love of life. It was sad, but understandable. Now he finds himself homing in on a place where he felt safe, supported, and maybe even loved, though that isn't something to admit just yet.
He is bleeding from at least two wounds when he shows up on the doorstep, and cannot go to a hospital or get outside help.
This enforced hiatus creates a potentially perfect situation for Beth and Chris to learn what is really important about each other, and this does happen, jerkily, imperfectly, but guided by the best instincts and upheld values each of them possesses. I admire Beth's integrity very much; she is simple in her honesty. Somehow she negotiates her curiosity , needs and sorrows in a way that constantly has the needs of others also in mind.
One of the most endearing and surprising actions was her desire to give Chris a Christmas present, which she does with her delightful simple honesty, even if it's a bit awkward!
Without wanting to reveal this keen pleasure, I will say it has wonderful consequences, helping Chris to overcome his fomenting but hidden despair over the conflict between wanting to do good in the world at the cost of his own sensibilities, and self esteem, and
reconnect with what and who is really important to him!
The ending is an excellent wrap-up, just perfect for Christmas. Although I love mysteries,
this series taught me a lot about the true values in relationships. There was one quote from a character that was particularly meaningful: "We are not here to see through our friends and others, but to see others and our friends through."