Reviews for Blood of the Prodigal : An Ohio Amish Mystery


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 April 1999
A professor of alternative cultures, Gaus writes with authority and warmth about the mysterious Amish. His protagonist, Professor Michael Brandon, enjoys life in beautiful Holmes County, Ohio. He also appreciates his Amish neighbors, so when his friend Pastor Caleb Troyer, a friend of Amish bishop Eli Miller, asks for help in finding Miller's missing grandson, Brandon agrees. Of course, there is a condition: Brandon must not go to the police, most notably his other boyhood chum, Sheriff Bruce Robertson. Gaus metes out his facts judiciously, giving enough information about the Amish culture for readers to learn something but not so much that the story suffers. This well-written, insightful first novel bodes well for Gaus' planned Professor Brandon series. ((Reviewed April 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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ForeWord Reviews 1999 June
When his childhood friend, Pastor Caleb Troyer, approaches Professor Michael Branden for help, Branden takes on a bizarre kidnapping case. Ten-year-old Jeremiah Miller has been kidnapped from an Old Order Amish settlement, but his grandfather, Bishop Miller, only wants to know if the boy is safe-because the Bishop already knows the kidnapper! Cast out from the Order, Jonah Miller has taken his son and left a note that promises the boy's return by harvest. Things become complicated, however, when Jonah's body is found-in brand-new, traditional Amish clothing-less than half a mile from the Bishop's home. Who has the boy now? And why are the Bishop and his Council still withholding information? Is the boy's uncle, Jeff Hostettler, bent on revenge for his sister's long-ago death? What is Donna Beachey, Jonah's old schoolteacher, hiding about her past with Jonah? What intimations is waitress Ester Yoder pointing to when she talks about the Bishop running out of land? And what possessed Jonah, if he was returning home, to keep his truck only to ditch it in a river nearby? With too many question and seemingly no solution, Professor Branden and his wife decide to retrace Jonah's last days alive by finding out where and when he bought his new clothing. Meanwhile, Sheriff Robertson and Deputy Niell track down Jonah's alias through his license registration and locate his workplace in Marblehead. Deputy Niell and Professor Branden team up and travel to Marblehead to investigate different leads, but it is only when Niell shares his new information with Professor Branden that the pieces fall into place and the kidnapping and murder are finally solved. The first of a planned series of Professor Branden/Holmes County ese sisters in sleuthing, and Grant's narrative, while somewhat predictable, is almost as strong as these veterans'. Occasionally Grant's metaphors are belabored, but more often they are fresh and clever, as when Vera is so nervous at the prospect of a first date with Tom that she starts to "decompose like a roll of wet paper towels." Minor characters come and go like clouds, without warning, but the major figures are believable people. The dramatic climax and Vera's eventual exorcism of Emily's ghost leave the reader hoping for a sequel. From Closet to Casket is exciting and enjoyable, especially for fans of the strong girl detective genre. Karen McCarthy Copyright 1999 ForeWord Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 April #2
Members of Ohio's Amish community are slow to trust the outsiders they call the English, so it's quite a surprise when Old Order Bishop Eli Miller approaches Professor Michael Branden, a Millersburg College historian, to ask his help in finding his missing grandson Jeremiah. The boy's been taken, the bishop says, by Jeremiah s his father Jonah, the son Eli Miller had cast out of the community ten years ago after he got Brenda Hostettler, a local non-Amish woman, pregnant with Jeremiah, who was born shortly before his mother killed herself. Determined now to keep Branden's investigation under his control, the bishop asks him to find Jonah and Jeremiah without alerting the authorities or anyone else that the boy is being held against his will and without attempting to bring Jeremiah home by force. It's a troubling list of restrictions, and the situation becomes even more touchy when the body of Jonah, dressed in the Amish garb he hadn't worn for ten years, is found alongside the road a mile from his father's house. Who shot Jonah to death, and what's become of the son he wanted to see a little of the world? The puzzle, turning on a single clue, is negligible, and the pace very, very slow. The charm of Gaus's first novel lies in its gently penetrating portrait of conflicts within the deceptively quiet contemporary Amish community. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Library Journal Reviews 1999 June #1
Amish bishop Eli Miller of Holmes County, OH, placed a ban on his own 18-year-old son Jonah when he refused to follow Amish precepts. Now, after ten years, Jonah returns to kidnap the son he fathered as a teenager, then disappears again. Not wanting to publicize private problems, Miller asks local professor Mike Branden for help in locating the pair. Branden, in turn, frets about not contacting police, especially after murder muddies the waters. Gaus obviously knows his subject well: a professor at the College of Wooster in the heart of Ohio's Amish region, he provides precise, detailed descriptions of Amish practices and full-bodied, unhurried, well-measured prose. A pleasure to read. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 1999 December #1
YA-With an unusual setting and a quiet tone, this mystery carries readers into the world of the Ohio Amish, where a bishop's grandson, Jeremiah, has disappeared. The boy had been living with the bishop and his family since his father was banished from the community 10 years earlier, just before Jeremiah's illegitimate birth to a local drug-addicted teenager. The bishop calls upon a local "English" (non-Amish) college professor to locate the boy, as he has reason to believe that Jeremiah is with his missing father for the summer. Eventually Jeremiah's father is found, shot to death, not far from the bishop's farm, but Jeremiah himself has not turned up. Thus the matter becomes public and involves the sheriff and his deputy, who work with the professor to solve the murder and find the boy. This thoughtful book contrasts the Old Order Amish way of life with that of modern America, and provides a refreshing look at a cast of small-town people who do their jobs capably as a matter of course and make their own moral choices.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 May #5
In the Old Order Amish communities of Ohio's Holmes County, it is rare for one of the self-styled "plain" people to seek aid from an outsider, one of "the English." But Bishop Eli Miller needs help and goes for it to a local academic, Michael Brandon. Years before, Miller had exiled his son Jonah for his wild ways. Now Jonah has snatched his own son, Jeremiah, who has been living with the bishop. In a note to his father, Jonah sends assurances that the boy will be returned by harvest time. Concern about Jeremiah's exposure to the outside world prompts the bishop to ask Brandon to locate the boy. And Brandon, too, is worried: Jeff Hostettler whose sister, Jeremiah's mother, committed suicide has vowed to kill Jonah on sight. When Jonah is discovered shot dead, dressed in traditional Amish garb and apparently on his way back in repentance to the bishop's home, Hostettler becomes the prime suspect. But where is Jeremiah? Gaus brings a refreshing authenticity to his unusual setting and characters. There are no wisecracking gumshoes here, but instead believable characters whose faith is explored with respect. Anyone who enjoyed the film Witness should take to this fine mystery debut. (June) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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