Book Review: Harmless as Doves

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” is the first line of Gaus’s latest Amish-Country Mysteries and a theme that weaves throughout this charming tale. Bishop Leon D. Shetler awoke one morning following his usual routine of thanking God for his wife, home and a good life before starting the morning chores. As Bishop Shetler was milking the cow, a shaken young Crist Burkholder announces he just killed Glenn Spiegle. Apparently Glenn, an older man died after Crist hauled off and punched him because they both intended to marry Vesta Miller. Crist is provided the council of an excellent lawyer which is good because he continues to proclaim his guilt to anyone who will listen.

For Sheriff Robertson it is an open and shut case but matters are quickly complicated when the evidence doesn’t add up and Crist is released. Meanwhile, Vesta’s abusive father suddenly departed to the Amish community of Pinecraft in Florida only to turn up dead. As Detective Ricky Miell and Professor Mike Branden start working the case they begin uncovering an accelerating spiral of blackmail, greed and drugs that will play out on the waters of Sarasota Bay yet echo throughout the Amish community.

While the character development and storyline are excellent, watching Bishop Shetler come to terms with the congregation’s covert use of cell phones and forbidden technologies is what steals the show, especially as he must use one of the phones. The way this character deals with errant members is subtle yet surprisingly effective. Added touches like the local law enforcement officials’ frustration at coping with new computers and forms provides a sense of realism. Gaus does a credible job of balancing the slow steady flow of Amish life against the more frenzied pace of the modern world. This nice solid mystery allows readers a hint of what the Amish way of life is all about.

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