Gaus, P. L. Blood of the Prodigal. New York: Plume, 2010.
This is a fascinating glance at Ohio's Amish country with far less romanticism of the culture than one finds in most books that are sometimes labeled Amish fiction. Bishop Miller's grandson has gone missing, but the Bishop knows his son has taken them. He reluctantly enlists the aid of an "English" pastor (Troyer) and a professor (Branden) who has a reputation for solving crimes during his summer breaks. While Branden's wife wants him to call on the sheriff to assist, Branden honors his promise to the Bishop for discretion. It isn't long until the sheriff is involved in cases related to the original matter. I enjoyed this first installment, but I felt that some of the characters were not as developed as they needed to be. We know that Branden has been involved in helping the police solve crimes in the past from conversations in the book, but we are never enlightened as to what these are. Most mystery series start with the first involvement of the amateur sleuth instead of leaving it to the reader's imagination to fill the void. I have Amish ancestry with lines who lived in Holmes and Wayne County in the first half of the 19th century (before moving westward). I was quite familiar with area being portrayed, and like some of the characters in the book, I lament the commercialization that continues to take place in the area. I did enjoy the mystery, and I found the local sheriff, the two deputies with whom we became most acquainted, and the professor and his wife quite likeable. I hope to be able to continue with this series.