Toxic Toffee (Amish Candy Show Mystery Book 4)

Amanda Flower

Kensington Pub.

June 25th, 2019

Toxic Toffee by Amanda Flower is a delightful cozy mystery that will put a smile on readers’ faces while they try to solve the who done it mystery.  As with all the books in the series, murder seems to find Bailey and she enjoys her role as an amateur sleuth along with her “hot” boyfriend Deputy Sheriff Aiden Brody.

She divides her time between New York, where she films a cable TV show, and Harvest Ohio, where she helps to run “Swissmen Sweets” with her grandmother and two Amish assistants, Charlotte and Emily. Besides a fun mystery this story also flushes out the personalities of the grandmother and the two Amish assistants.

Yet, death becomes the main attraction when Stephen Raber, a jovial Santa Claus look alike rabbit farmer, keels over from an apparent heart attack right in front of Bailey.  Except he didn’t die from natural causes, but from a lethal dose of Lily of the Valley flower mixed into a tasty piece of toffee he had eaten. Now Bailey has become a foster parent to one of Raber’s rabbits, Puff, a large fluffy white delightful bunny. Because the Amish distrust the local law enforcement, Bailey assists her sheriff deputy boyfriend in the investigation. In addition to searching for a killer, Bailey’s been recruited to create a giant 7-foot toffee rabbit. Splitting her time between taking care of Puff, creating the large rabbit, and solving the murder where she and Aiden try to uncover a twenty-year-old secret.

The quirky characters are colorful and fun to read. Flowers skillfully blends Amish and English characters with a mystery that keeps the reader sleuthing along with Bailey. Prepare for a few smiles as Jethro the pig and Nutmeg the cat are back, as they are joined with Puff the bunny.

Elise Cooper:  There seems to be some symbolism in the story.  The victim, Raber, appears to be a nice and great guy.  The Lilly of the Valley flower is pretty, but poisonous.  Both cases have a hidden dark side?

Amanda Flower:  I had the mystery centered around a bunny seller killed by this poisonous plant.  It is a revenge story where the murderer stews over something that has happened throughout their life.  It was premeditated.  With Stephen and the flower, I wanted to show that nothing and no one is perfect. 

EC:  Do you have a bunny rabbit?

AF:  My friend does and actually raises them.  She had a white rabbit that everyone adored, and it was named Puff.  I also know that the Amish breed and sell rabbits.  I went to this Amish rabbit farm to view bunny behavior.

EC:  What about the toffee?

AF:  I need to keep coming up with different candies.  In this story I had Margot Rawlings, the village coordinator, wanting to have a giant rabbit made out of toffee.  Her mission is to make Holmes County the next Berlin Ohio, the main Amish place for the tourists.  I incorporated toffee because other communities were building giant rabbits made out of chocolate, so she decided on a different candy.  Then there is also the fact that the murder “weapon” was inputted into some toffee candy.

EC:  Is it even possible to make a giant candy rabbit?

AF:  Yes.  I researched it.  Bailey put Rice Krispy treats for the inside interior.  The toffee part goes on the rabbit to look like fur.  This is fitting for the Amish because they don’t like caricatures.

EC:  You also explore family relationships?

AF:  I want to continue doing this. In this case, I explore the family relationship when someone tries to leave the Amish community.  Those who leave the faith are regarded in different ways:  some are not shunned because they were never baptized, some are not shunned because the community is more lenient and open, and some are completely cut off from their parents and siblings. What I put in the book is true, that there are people and organizations that help the Amish who leave integrate into the English world. Yet, around 70% of the people born into the Amish faith remain, primarily because they do not want to lose access to their family and friends.

EC:  How do you come up with the fun dialogue which really adds to the story?

AF:  Bailey is a fun character to write.  While writing my first book, I had a real struggle to find her voice.  I probably rewrote that book three or four times.  I even had to get an extension because there was something not right about how she was sounding.  I wanted her to be a true New Yorker, but someone who would acclimate to life in Amish country.  Her sarcasm and humor come from living in the cosmopolitan city of New York that has given her a little bit of an edge. I do not want her to be completely “sweet,” but a real person.

EC:  You contrast New York City with Holmes County?

AF:  I am now writing novellas between the stories.  The first novella, Criminally Cocoa, is an e-book set in New York City.  I told it from the point of view of Charlotte, one of the candy shop assistant’s.  I based Charlotte on my own experience.  I feel like “wow.” Everything is so big and moves so fast, while in Holmes County, everything is so small, and people move leisurely.  In Holmes County, everything closes at 5 pm with the restaurants closing at 8 pm.  It becomes a ghost town, while NY City is the town that never sleeps.

EC:  You seem to have brought out the grandmother’s personality more in this book?

AF: In the first book she had to deal with her husband being sick and ultimately dying.  In the next couple of books, she was sad and mourning.  This book was her turning point with her grief.  The next book will have her come more out of her shell.  She is now making her own decisions and speaking her mind. 

EC:  You write the Amish personality with some humor?

AF:  They are seen as serious with an inward personality.  But it is true to life that they can joke and be funny.  Years ago, when I started writing, I went on this buggy ride.  The driver was like a stand-up comedian.  This was very eye opening for me.  I would see them plowing or selling something and they looked so serious with their black clothes.  But they are normal people just like us. 

EC:  What about the relationship between Bailey and Aiden?

AF:  In the next book I throw a wrench into it.  This book shows them as being the perfect match.  Ultimately, they are meant to be together.  Eventually they will get their happily ever after.

EC:  What about your next book?

AF:  I am writing a new spinoff series that will feature someone introduced in this book, Millie Fisher, an Amish matchmaker.  It will be out in January and is titled, Matchmaking Can Be Murder.  Many of the “Candy Shop” characters will make appearances.  This is set right after Toxic Toffee takes place, in May.

Out next summer will be another book with Bailey and company titled Marshmallow Malice. A former Amish woman storms in during the wedding ceremony of Juliet and Reverend Brook accusing him of being a traitor.  The next day she is found dead.