Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: Harmless as Doves

Author: P. L. Gaus  
Title: Harmless as Doves
Description: An Amish convert turns up dead, and a young Amish man hurries to confess the murder to his Bishop. Questions remain, however: how did one punch (from a pacifist) kill an adult man? What happened between the time the confessed killer fled the scene and law enforcement’s arrival? And where is the dead man’s best friend?
Review source: netgalley
Plot: The plot grabbed me right away. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of those Amish romances that are all over the place these days, but I am interested in the Amish, so books about them in other genres do attract my interest. The plot keeps twisting: another murder, a disappearance, and a twenty-year old crime are added to the mix.
Characters: After I read the book, I did some quick internet research on the author and discovered that this is the eighth book in a series of Amish mysteries featuring three (!) detectives. The detectives are the English (i.e. non-Amish) sheriff, a college professor, and a pastor. This explains why this college professor was called to the scene about halfway through the book with no introduction. I think three detectives is a bit much. Point of view flipped around pretty crazily.
Writing style: There were some things I really liked and some things that really drove me crazy. On the crazy side: there’s a lot of repetition of some ideas. Amish don’t know much about the law? I got that after the first time; the fifth or sixth time I was told, I just got annoyed. Likewise, the saintly Bishop wonders if other men are as saintly as he is about twelve times more than he needs to. On the positive side, I did like the thoughtful presentation of ideas, especially regarding the Amish lifestyle and the Bible verse this book is titled for.
Audience: Obviously there could be some crossover from fans of other Amish fiction, but mystery readers would be the primary audience. And I’d definitely class this as Christian fiction, although it’s published by Plume.
Wrap-up: I wanted to know how the story ended right from the beginning, so the author did well at pulling me in. I was disappointed by the ending, though. While we have a villain by the end of the book, there are a lot of loose ends that weren’t dealt with to my satisfaction.  I would have also liked more details and insight into secondary characters (i.e. the perpetrators and victims) as opposed to the three (!) detectives. I’d read another book in the series, for sure. 4/5*

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