In each of Kramer’s five mysteries featuring television news reporter Riley Spartz, the author gives readers the primary story involving a crime and a secondary story-one with more of a human interest twist. In Shunning Sarah, Riley takes readers into an Amish community to investigate a young woman’s death while bringing us along as she follows a conflict between bear hunters and scientists studying bears’ movements and hibernation.
Riley Spartz is always looking for her next big story, but since the arrival of Bryce Griffin as news director, Riley’s efforts to find a suitable story grows harder by the day. As the leading station in the Twin Cities area, her job at Channel 3 had been to go for the scoop-the story that would bring in big overnight ratings and keep the audience coming back to for the follow-ups. But with Bryce’s arrival, the emphasis on the “big” story is being replaced by the cheap story. So when Riley’s parents called her with a tip of a child stuck in a sink hole, all of her news instincts said “this is it, this is the big story,” while her boss’s view was lukewarm at best. Bryce finally relented and Riley and her cameraman Malik headed for the scene only to find the boy was already safely rescued. Not wanting to return to the station empty handed, they attempted to get an interview with the mother and a picture of the boy, but the mother reacted in horror. And then they found out why. When the boy slid into the sink hole, he landed next to a dead woman. Riley decides to investigate who the woman was and how did she end up in the sink hole. Riley’s investigation leads her straight into the heart of an Amish community. What she finds there is disturbing.
What makes Kramer’s books so very enjoyable is her attention to details. In the plotting of Shunning Sarah, Kramer has done her homework on the Amish and gives readers a darker side to some of the Amish ways. The bear storyline is interesting enough to send more than a few readers to do a Google search. Through Riley’s conflicts with the news director, readers are given an interesting look at the behind the scenes of television news productions. A good bit of this would be funny (and it still is to some degree) if it was not that most readers will recognize the cost saving measures taken by Bryce present in their own television news. Still, the description of Riley’s efforts at “one man banding” is bound to cause readers to chuckle.
I would recommend this series to people who are interested in fiction with reporters as protagonists, mysteries set in Minnesota, and people interested in the Amish. This is the fifth book in the series, but aside from some personal drama, most of the needed back story is given in the context of this book, so readers could easily start with Shunning Sarah.