27 October 2010

Blood of the Prodigal, by P.L. Gaus

I picked this one up at the SIBA Trade Show last month in Daytona Beach, and had no idea that it was being re-released this year after it's original publication in 1999 by a different press.  I also had no idea that this book could be categorized and accepted in Christian fiction -- I don't think I've read one novel in that genre, and really never thought that I would.  Not sure why, but I just never thought I'd be interested by it.

Well, this book has certainly changed my perception of Christian fiction, and mysteries as well.  Blood of the Prodigal, by P.L. Gaus is a mystery novel set in the Amish countryside of Ohio.  Early one morning, young Jeremiah Miller is abducted from the farm, and his grandfather Bishop Miller, is forced to enlist the help of one of the "English," a person outside of the Amish world.  As one of the Plain People who does not associate with those outside of his community, the Bishop is now forced to ask for help from it.  Professor Branden, however, has earned the Bishop's trust, and begins to investigate where his grandson may be.  He has been asked to not involve the police, and Professor Branden honors this request.

The Bishop, surprisingly, isn't as concerned in finding his own son, Jonah, a young man who never took his Amish vows and left the community ten years prior.  He went through the Rumschpringe, which is a permitted period of time in which teenagers starting around the age of sixteen begin to "run around" as some term it -- officially, it's a time to court and find a spouse.  Unofficially, and embraced by the press in order to sensationalize it, it's viewed as a time when young Amish boys and girls explore non-Amish ways.  Either way, Jonah Miller was pretty wild, and subsequently was shunned from the community, a ban that Bishop Miller placed on Jonah himself.  Soon, the mystery develops into a two-fold one, in which not only is a kidnapping to be investigated, but also a murder, and Professor Branden is trusted and tasked to make sense of it all.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Although a quick read, it's an exceptionally smart mystery, and it certainly does an effective job in telling a sound story full of absorbing insights into the Amish way of life. There are intelligent layers within this story, of both the personal lives of the Professor and his wife, but also of the Amish community and the politics of the English living side by side with the Plain People. The characters were exceedingly interesting with each scene (my personal favorites: the Professor, his wife, and Sheriff Robertson), and I was caught up in the mystery of it all. I had no idea who did the kidnapping, who committed murder, until the scenes unfolded before me. P.L. Gaus has combined the surrounding Amish countryside and charming characters into a developed and well-researched journey of a mystery. This is book one in the Amish-Country Mystery series, so there's no doubt that I'm interested to pick up the next one.

I also must admit that there were times, especially towards the end, when my throat closed up as I read, and I'm pretty sure if someone asked me a question at that exact moment, or tried to talk with me, I'd have to blink back some tears and collect myself before trying to speak.

Additional Thoughts
This is educational to the core, and it all began to tantalize that greedy little bone in my body that loves to learn as much as I can about anything. I have visited the Amish countryside in Pennsylvania once or twice as a kid, and loved it. There was one particular time in which the bus that I was on slowly drove past a group of children playing in the fields, and one little boy quickly stuck his tongue out at us. I used to think it was funny, and of course as I got older, in looking back at that event, and reinforced by reading this book, I quite understand that little boy's frustrations at all of the "English" tourists. It wasn't a zoo that the bus was traveling through; this was their home. I have made a mental note to myself that I would like to visit the Amish country again, but I will definitely ensure that I am more respectful than the silly tour company that I was on twenty-some years ago.

About the Author
Paul Louis Gaus lives with his wife, Madonna, in Wooster, Ohio, just a few miles north of Holmes County, where the world's largest and most varied settlement of Amish and Mennonite people is found.  His knowledge of the culture of the "Plain People" stems from more than thirty years of extensive exploration of the narrow blacktop roads and lesser gravel lanes of this pastoral community, which includes several dozen sects of Anabaptists living closely among the so-called English or Yankee non-Amish people of the country.  Paul lectures widely about the Amish people he has met and about the lifestyles, culture, and religion of this remarkable community of Christian pacifists.

Visit the author's site by clicking here.

Happy Reading!
Coffee and a Book Chick


  1. As someone who generally runs the other way when I see a sign saying Christian Fiction, this sounds like a really interesting book. Great review.

    We have a fair deal of Amish in the central and southern parts of my state, but I've never visited those parts.

  2. Tedious & Brief -- You say it exactly how I felt it -- normally I run the other way! I had no idea that it was a book that Christian-enthusiasts would support, and quite frankly, I probably wouldn't have read it. However, it sort of surprised me that it would be in that category anyway, since murder, sex, drugs, alcohol, and more are referenced in it, and the only time any quotes from the Bible are mentioned are during a funeral which seemed appropriate, not out of place. I guess I just don't know what qualifies for that genre?

  3. Well I did try Christian Fiction, but this is nothing what I have read.
    THIS sounds good actually. I will mark it up! I am glad you enjoyed it s much, it is good to like a book, which you know nothing about.

  4. First timehearing about hte Amish Country mystery series, and one I will definitely read. Nie review.

  5. I've always been fascinated by the Amish lifestyle. Lovely review, this book sounds really interesting.

  6. In Indiana, where I grew up, we had a huge community of Amish in a town called Shipshewana, and I was always fascinated by their lifestyle. Placing a mystery in this type community is a great move, because the setting is probably as fascinating as the plot.

  7. I live about an hour south of Wooster and deal with the Amish mostly on the roads, at Walmart, and at the chiropracter. I do wonder about some of the people who come here and want to "see the Amish" as if they're zoo exhibits. You can come visit me if you decide to see some of the Ohio countryside!

  8. I also got this one at SIBA and am really excited about it. It seems that there are a lot of Amish books out there right now, and I have never tried one. I think all the aspects of their lives are just fascinating and would love the chance to visit them. It sounds like it was a really interesting and well rounded book. Looking forward to it now!

  9. I got this one at SIBA too, after Heather twisted my arm and forced me too. LOL I'm glad to see you enjoyed it so much.

  10. Veens -- Yes, check it out! It is good to find out that you like a book you never expected that you would!

    Book Bird Dog -- It was definitely the first time I had heard of it as well. Check it out!

    Brenna -- The Amish world is so incredibly fascinating. Just their ability to stay strong and be consistently separate from technology and still live an incredibly fruitful life -- it certainly makes you wonder how much you really need that cell phone with you at all times, huh? :) I don't think I could live without it...!

    Sandy -- I really enjoyed the setting. It really felt very authentic. Not to mention, now I think I'm going to look up how to make some of the food...

    Jeanne -- You live right by the author, so you will definitely be able to feel this authenticity!! And I might take you up on your offer one day to visit! :)

    Connie -- It definitely was, do check it out!

    Zibilee @ Raging Bibliomania -- It was a good read, definitely let me know what you think about it!! The life is so incredibly fascinating, I'm always so impressed!

    Bermuda Onion -- SIBA gets you every time! Heather twisted your arm? The shy one that she is, huh? LOL :)

  11. This sounds like a wonderful book - and a good intro to Christian fiction for those of us who tend to run from that label. I changed my mind about Christian fiction when I first read a book by Frank Peretti - it was a novel, and not preachy either .. and I thought, "Oh! Maybe I WOULD like to read more"

    Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

  12. I have never read a book set in Amish country, even though I live in Ohio and go to an Amish area on a fairly regular basis to shop. Sounds like I would enjoy this one.

  13. jewelknits -- I always meant to read Frank Peretti -- thanks for reminding me!! :)

    carolsnotebook -- Yes, this might definitely be a book that would interest you! Let me know what you think if you read it!