Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blood of the Prodigal by P.L. Gaus - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Blood of the Prodigal
Plume; Reprint edition (September 28, 2010)
P.L. Gaus


Paul took an interest in writing fiction in 1993, and with the advice and encouragement of author Tony Hillerman, he began writing mystery novels set among the Amish in Holmes County, Ohio. The first of Gaus's mysteries, Blood of the Prodigal, An Ohio Amish Mystery, was published by Ohio University Press in June of 1999, and a total of six novels have appeared in this series: Broken English, 2000, Clouds Without Rain, 2001, Cast a Blue Shadow, 2003, A Prayer for the Night, 2006, and Separate from the World, 2008. A seventh novel in the series is in preparation.

All of Paul's stories have now been republished by Plume (a division of Penguin Group USA) as The Amish-Country Mysteries, and these editions have been embraced by Christian retailers such as, Family Christian Stores, and LifeWay. Future mysteries in the series will still first be published in hard cover editions, as The Amish-Country Mysteries by Ohio University Press, with Plume bringing out the soft cover editions some time later.

Paul and his wife Madonna still travel frequently in Holmes County. He lectures widely about Amish culture at libraries, bookstores, literary societies, and the like, and his books have been featured at Book Expo America and similar professional shows around the country. Paul's novels have been reviewed in prominent journals and newspapers, for instance, Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Ohioana Quarterly, and the New York Times Book Review.


For Jonah Miller, shunned by his Old Order sect and cast into the wider world, the summer begins with his decision to kidnap his ten-year-old son from the home of the bishop who had exiled Miller a decade earlier. In his desperation to retrieve the boy, the bishop appeals for help to the only "English" men the sect would ever approve.

Professor Michael Branden and Pastor Caleb Troyer had been looking forward to the kind of sleepy rural summer they had enjoyed as boyhood friends growing up in the small college town of Millersburg. Instead, they plunge into the normally closed Amish culture to find the boy. When the kidnapping leads to murder, they can no longer keep the case from the law. Working sometimes at cross purposes with his friend Sheriff Bruce Robertson, Professor Branden digs through the past to uncover truths that many would prefer to leave undisturbed. Little does he suspect that even the anguished bishop, torn by an insoluble moral dilemma, tragically does not tell everything he knows about the case. Suddenly the vast tangle of Amish and Mennonite settlements that sprawl among several thousand small farms and homesteads seems less bucolic than unknowable and impenetrable.

As they inquire delicately among the peaceful ones, Branden and Troyer learn that the troubles of Jonah Miller began far earlier than the kidnapping, with his Rumschpringe - the customary wild year before taking Amish vows. But his grand Rumschpringe had exploded into a decade of drugs, whiskey, and women, in the company of people no Amish person should meet.

In the tradition of Tony Hillerman, P. L. Gaus depicts a culture that successfully stands outside the mainstream yet interacts with it in complex and fascinating ways, a culture that is every bit as susceptible to the undertow of the human spirit as any we might know.

My Thoughts:
This blog tour really excited me, because my librarian had introduced me to Gaus and his books years ago. Originally published by Ohio University Press, these wonderful books have been picked up by a subsidiary of Penguin and re-released to a broader audience. I couldn't be more pleased!! Gaus has created a character who is a college professor by trade, and a brilliant detective by choice. He is sought out by an Amish family who has had their grandson kidnapped from them.

This mystery is layers deep, and includes some unexpected twists and turns. While the story includes a lot about the Amish and their culture, the focus is more on the mystery and the efforts to solve the problem before anyone else is harmed. (there is a murder too) The balance between the "English" and the Amish is brilliant, the story line grabs the reader and continuously grows in intensity. In short, if you like a good mystery, Gaus is brilliant!! Like I said, I am VERY pleased that this series is going to reach a larger audience! I am even more thrilled that there will soon be a new book in the series!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Blood of the Prodigal, go HERE

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