Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True by Judy Clemens

Title: To Thine Own Self Be True
Author: Judy Clemens
ISBN: 1590583922, Poisoned Pen Press, 2006
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #3 Stella Crown mystery
Rating: A

First Line: "So I said to him, 'You know what could happen if I pierced you there?' The stooge went white so fast I thought he was gonna do a face plant right there on the linoleum!"

Stella Crown lives in a Mennonite area of Pennsylvania and is a hard-working dairy farmer. She is also tattooed and rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle. She's used to be looked at with raised eyebrows; she's used to being treated as though she's from another planet.

Shortly before Christmas, Stella decides to treat herself to a new tattoo and stops in at Wolf Ink to have it done. Halfway through the tattoo, Wolf's wife Mandy calls him to the back of the shop, and while he's gone the hard-working Stella falls asleep in the chair. When she wakes up, Wolf and Mandy have disappeared. Although she's not happy about the interrupted tattoo, she's also very uneasy about the disappearance of her friends. When Stella discovers that Mandy has been found frozen to death behind a dumpster outside Wolf Ink and that Wolf has vanished, her overwhelming sense of guilt has her helping the police with their investigation. The investigation soon starts looking into fringe tattooists (who ink underage kids and "forget" to change needles) and a legislator who wants to close down the entire industry. Between milking times and blizzards, will Stella have a chance to find out who killed Mandy and what happened to Wolf?

I enjoy this series because Clemens has such a marvelous character in Stella and such an unusual setting. You may have sleuths who are tattooed and ride motorcycles, but chances are that they don't have to keep a dairy farm running. Many times amateur sleuths who are supposedly gainfully employed have time to gallivant over hill and dale day after day in pursuit of the bad guys. Stella doesn't. When those cows need milking, she has to be there. When the truck comes to pick up the milk, it has to be taken care of. This means that the mystery has to take a backseat from time to time for the daily work on a dairy farm. I like that realism.

I also like the fact that Clemens lets me take a peek into worlds that are very unfamiliar to me: the worlds of the Mennonites, of dairy farmers, of tattoo parlors, and of motorcycles. With a down-to-earth character like Stella showing me the way, it's a pleasure to ride along while she solves mysteries.

[Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.]


  1. Oh, what an interesting-sounding series!! I'm not Mennonite or Amish, myself, but I grew up in that part of PA, so I know the area. OK, time to add to the TBR list...

  2. I live in PA -- I really should read this series: local(ish) setting, A rating.

  3. I enjoy seeing reviews of good books from independent presses (which I take Poisoned Pen to be). To me, it is sort of like the Huffington Post's push to get people to put their money in small more-local banks. If we as readers want to have a variety of writers, we are going to need to look for and buy the good books put out by Independent Publishers, publishers not connected to the Wal-Mart-type publishing houses that gobble up everything.

    Otherwise everything is going to be Patterson, Dan Brown and J. D. Robb. Not that I am opposed to those writers, but I want much more variety than that.

    Thanks for this review. As soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to look up and buy this book to read.

  4. The book sounds good and I just love the title!!

  5. Margot K-- I hope you enjoy it. I have from the very first, and it's one of the mystery series I recommend.

    Beth-- It would be interesting to see what you think of it. :)

    Joe-- Yes, Poisoned Pen Press is a small independent publisher of mysteries here in the Phoenix area. I'm not opposed to Patterson, Brown and Robb/Roberts either, but like you, I prefer quality AND variety in my reading.

    Kathy-- I like all the titles in this series. :)

  6. This sounds like a great series - and Stella sounds so interesting. What an intriguing sleuth! I'm adding this series to my list.

  7. My wife and I each enjoy Mennonite based series. Thanks for sharing insights on this one!

    Bill ;-)

    Hope you'll check out my book giveaway:

  8. Hi Cathy!

    Presented you with an award. Hope you stop by and pick it up! Lesa -

  9. Belle-- Good! I hope you enjoy reading about Stella!

    Bill-- Thanks for stopping by!

    Lesa-- Thank you so much!

  10. The title of the book is my old school motto and something I have always tried to live by - ah, such memories.


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