BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review of Harmless As Doves by P. L. Gaus

Publisher: Plume
Series: Ohio Amish Mystery #7
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Buying Links:  Amazon     Barnes & Noble     The Book Depository

Book Blurb (from goodreads):

As he goes about his milking chores on a cold October morning, Bishop Leon Shetler daydreams of escaping the Ohio winter and taking a bus to the Pinecraft Amish community in Florida for a vacation. His reverie is suddenly interrupted when young Crist Burkholder enters the barn, head down, hat in hand, to make a confession. “I just killed Glenn Spiegle.”

 “An Amish murderer?” Sheriff Robertson asks when he arrives on the scene. “Who will believe that?” But Burkholder is adamant about his guilt, fueled by the passion of his love for Vesta Miller, the young woman both he and Spiegle so desperately wanted to marry.

No sooner does the sheriff start his investigation than he learns of two more murders in the Pinecraft community, and a startling connection is made. There’s no way around it—Professor Mike Branden will have to put his research trip on hold and, along with detective Ricky Niell, travel south to investigate. There they discover the disturbing truth about Spiegle’s conversion to the Amish faith and the reason for the long-smoldering hatred that has reached into the secluded pastoral valleys of Holmes County.

In Harmless as Doves, P. L. Gaus takes the action to Florida in one of the most exciting mysteries in the series. This is Gaus at his best.

Reviewed By:  Bea

Bea's Thoughts:

"An Amish murderer?" I admit, I had a similar thought. I know that the Amish are just people, human like the rest of us, but I still had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of an Amish person committing murder. Gaus handles this sensitively, and without putting the Amish up on a pedestal while treating them respectfully. Although, it seemed to me at times as if the bishop, Leon Shetler, seemed was a bit too proud of himself and his treatment of his wife. The repetition of what a good man he was got wearisome but overall I liked him quite a bit: calm, kind, compassionate, reasonable, striving to do the right thing. His interactions with the suspect, Burkholder, and others involved show his ethics, his beliefs and his willingness to do what's right.

The story is told not only from Shetler's perspective but also that of Sheriff Roberson, who seemed to me to be oddly ignorant of the Amish despite his long term of service in the area; a local pastor, Cal Troyer; a college professor, Michael Branden; and a local detective, Ricky Niell. That was a lot of head hopping for a story that's only 193 pages long. It wasn't always clear to me why the professor and the pastor were involved; this is the seventh book in the series so their involvement may have been established in earlier books but there really should have been a better explanation in this book. Overall, the book worked as a stand-alone but it may be better appreciated if read in order.

The story grabbed me from the first and I was hard put to put it down. Near the end of the story, the action moved to Florida and honestly, I found that to be the least interesting part of the story. We're in Branden and Niell's heads most of the time and I just wasn't interested. Gaus also gave us way too much detail about boats, seasickness, and other matters of little or no relevance to the story; it was odd after the first eighty percent of the story where he was more focused and the writing was tight.I enjoyed reading about the Amish in this community, their interactions with the English, and the differences not only between the Amish and the English but between the different communities of Amish. I also enjoyed the glimpses into Bishop Shetler's work and the decisions and compromises he must make. Sheriff Robertson's slow, grudging foray into 21st century technology was also well-done.

Gaus tells a story that is mostly tightly written, detailed but not overly done, and keeps the reader's interest. I would have liked to have had more insight into Burkholder but Gaus spins a compelling story and I expect I'll be reading more in the series.

I received a paperback from the publisher for review. 

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