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Broken English
Ohio Amish Mysteries
P. L. Gaus

Plume / Penguin
October 26, 2010 / ISBN 978-0453396619
Mystery/Amish (reprint)

Reviewed by Dennis Collins

David Hawkins had been a sniper in Vietnam with many notches in the stock of his rifle. But a wartime experience changed David, and when he returned to the United States he sought a quieter, gentler existence. He eventually settled on the Amish lifestyle embracing their faith as well as their peace loving culture. He even became engaged to an Amish woman.

But then tragedy strikes. David’s daughter from a previous marriage is murdered. Jesse Sands, the murderer, is apprehended at the scene and taken to jail to await trial. At the urging of Pastor Cal Troyer, David visits his daughter’s killer to tell him that he forgives him, but words from the murderer enrage David and he attacks Jesse Sands through the prison bars. After regaining some self control David walks out of the jailhouse and drops completely out of sight.

Then a reporter who has been following the case is found murdered. To Sheriff Robertson it appears that David Hawkins has reverted to the dangerous killer that he was in Vietnam. There is no solid evidence to tie Hawkins to the killing, but there are no other likely suspects. Hawkins’ disappearance only adds fuel to the argument.

Pastor Cal Troyer refuses to believe that his friend has lapsed and turns to his pal, Professor Michael Brandon, to help prove his case. Brandon is smart and tenacious, the kind of investigator who can thwart the efforts of a sheriff focusing on no other possibility than the guilt of David Hawkins.

Author P. L. Gaus moves this book at a very relaxed tempo - almost as if he is attempting to slow the reader down to the casual meter of the Amish themselves. He regularly interrupts the story to point out the beauty of the countryside or the grace of a butterfly in flight. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it works. He proves that you don’t need a breakneck pace to tell a compelling tale. As mystery novels go, it ranks with the best of them in keeping the reader guessing. I must admit that I agreed with the sheriff in parts of this book. The ending is very well thought out and very clever.

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Reviewer & Columnist Dennis Collins is the author of Turn Left at September, The Unreal McCoy, and The First Domino
Reviewed 2011
© 2011