|Bishop Henry Lapp
(creator: Vannetta Chapman)
|Bishop Henry Lapp, when we first meet him, was 64 years old and lived in the small Amish community at Monte Vista in the San Louis Valley of Colorado. He had been a widower for 20 years. He earned his living by making wooden objects and selling them in local shops. He had previously been an Amish minister in Goschen, and now "found the role of Bishop to be particularly to his liking" as he liked people and enjoyed working with them. He had been a Bishop for 13 years. It was an honor that he had never expected although, convinced that "God's plan was perfect for each life", he felt it was not up to him to question what happened to him. Even violent death could be part of God's plan for "every life is complete."
"His hair was going to gray and had a bit of a curl in it. His beard had turned nearly white in the last year, something he found amusing .... Laugh lines fanned out from eyes that were a warm brown .... He didn't have the large belly many men his age did. He regarded himself as "a crusty old bachelor".
He had one extraordinary gift, being able to draw scenes that he had just witnessed in incredible detail. It is a case of "acquired savant syndrome", caused by a bang on the head when he was only 12. It is a very rare condition experienced by only a handful of people in the world. 15 years before, it had led to him being arrested for the murder of a young girl because the police couldn't believe that anyone but the murderer could have such detailed knowledge about a crime scene.
Vannetta Chapman has BA and MA degrees in English. She has published over 100 articles in Christian family magazines as well as many novels. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather's birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania, and began by writing a series of Amish romances, before moving on to the Bishop cozy mysteries reviewed below.
She has served as a teacher, pianist, church secretary, and worship team member, and was an adjunct professor of English Literature at Dallas Baptist University. She lives in the Texas hill country with her husband, cats, and a large herd of deer. She has four grown-up children and is now a full-time writer. She says she aims to write "inspirational fiction full of grace."
What the Bishop Saw (2017)
The author's affection for the Amish background shines through, helped along by by the use of a limited range of Pennysylvania Dutch words, particularly gut as with "gut health", "gut motive" and 'It's gut to see you." And she includes a glossary in case you do not understand them. Being a cozy mystery, she also adds seven recipes to the end of the book, as well as a series of discussion questions in case the reader isn't too bright.
Henry isn't really much of a detective and suspects the wrong person, but his use of his magical memory eventually enables him to help identify the murderer (some time after the reader does). At one point he even gets kidnapped himself but even here there is a lack of excitement or much feeling of tension as he tells Emma, "It's time to come up with an escape plan but first let's pray," and, we are told, "In that moment Emma realized she loved Henry Lapp". But the whole situation, including their eventual rescue, is underplayed, and the final arrest of the murderer isn't described at all! Yet, despite all this, the story flows gently on and holds the interest even if at times it all seems distinctly unlikely.
When the Bishop Needs an Alibi (2017)
As the local authorities attempt to unravel the mystery, Henry wonders whether God ís calling him to use his extraordinary talent to aid in the investigation. His ability to draw from memory in photographic detail could help solve this puzzling case. His drawings can even reveal such tiny details as the words of a message or the numbers on a tattoo. It sounds amazing, if not downright incredible! His closest friend, widow Emma Fisher, has always urged him to embrace his gift. As their relationship deepens, Henry realizes his involvement could put him and those he loves in the direct path of a killer, one who is willing to do anything to cover up a brutal crime, including drugging Henry's dog (somehow you care more about this than about the dead girl) and framing Henry for the murder. Meanwhile Emma is busy asking himself, "Did she love him in the way a woman should love a man she hoped to marry?" It Is not too hard to guess the answer!
The villains keep each other (and us) informed of what is going on by sending each other somewhat enigmatic text messages. Henry himself is still not much of a detective and once again suspects the wrong person of carrying out the crime. But he is convinced that God is working his purpose out, although this is the second time that he finds himself arrested for a murder he did not commit and it Is also the second time he finds himself taken prisoner. It all leads up to a melodramatic finish in the sand dunes when Emma and Henry make a dramatic, if unlikely, escape (she knew God would not let her die there as "He wasn't done with her yet" as "She was far from perfect"). Henry, for his part, is sure that it must all be part of God's purpose for them.
The Amish background helps hold the interest, as when we learn that "most Amish families had eight to ten children" and had "no electricity, no telephone and their own parochial school", with their conduct subject to the Ordnung, a set of rules that may "vary a little from place to place. Some communities allow scooters or solar power or tractors. But overall, the rules are the same. Dress Plain, live humbly, remain separate." And so they do, although Henry recognises the importance of fostering good relations with his close neighbours, the Englisch. He is an amiable character.
The book ends with another ten of those dreaded discussion questions, followed by ten recipes. All very cozy, but it still makes quite an enjoyable read.
Who the Bishop Knows (2018)
Despite a message warning "Stay out of it" chalked onto Henry's buggy, Henry sets off with Emma after receiving a ransom note from the kidnappers of Naomi and Emma's grand-daughter Katie Ann. "They did not need weapons. What they needed was divine intervention" from a God who was "mighty, compassionate, all-knowing". Eventually there is a genuinely exciting confrontation with the ransomer in the deserted rodeo arena, together with a totally unconvincing explanation of how Jeremiah had been shot. Emma and Henry had not exactly solved the mystery, more "stumbled into things" as Henry put it. But with all that out of the way, Henry and Emma can finally get married. As Emma's son Clyde pointed out, "I'm not saying that God will bless you with a child, though with him all things are possible. Wasn't Abraham a hundred old and Sarah ninety?"
There are other romantic scenes too as when Naomi, Jeremiah's ex-girlfriend, falls for Silas. she is worried that he has dated and then abandoned too many girls before her, but "Did she want him to kiss? Before she could decide, his lips met hers. Tingles shot down her spine. Tiny lights exploded behind her tightly closed eyes. Sweat slicked her palms .... it was a kiss like she'd read about in the Englisch romance novels." Like the ones this author has written? Silas goes on to apologise for his past behaviour, but Naomi wonders if he could really change his ways so quickly. "She supposed time will tell. Until she knew for certain, she would do well to guard her heart."
It is, we are told, "a story of accepting our talents, putting one another first, and trusting that God will care for His children," and this is made obvious in the 10 questions for discussion that follow, together with the usual list of recipes. As before, the story is not without interest, but a good question for discussion would be, "Which parts of the story can you really believe?"
|The cover does not suggest murder or mystery.|