Harmless as Doves

When Crist Burkholder admits to his bishop that he has murdered the rival for his girlfriend’s hand, Sheriff Bruce Robertson finds it difficult to believe that an Amish lad would be capable of such an act. Professor Michael Branden and Detective Ricky Niell must travel to the Pinecraft Amish vacation colony in Sarasota in order to unravel the mystery.

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On a cold October morning, on the rounds of his morning chores, Bishop Leon Shetler dreams of escaping a bleak Ohio winter and taking a bus to the Pinecraft Amish community in Sarasota, Florida, for a vacation in the sun. But his reveries are interrupted when young Crist Burkholder enters the barn with his head down and his hat in hand, to make a confession. “I just killed Glenn Spiegle.”

“An Amish murderer?” Sheriff Robertson asks, after Burkholder has been taken into custody. “Who will believe that?” But Burkholder is adamant, and fueled by the passion of his love for Vesta Miller, the young woman both he and Spiegle so desperately wanted to marry, he confesses time and again to the murder.

No sooner has the sheriff started his investigation than he learns of two more murders in Sarasota/Bradenton, and a startling connection is made in the case. There is no way around it – Professor Michael Branden will have to pull himself out of the library at Duke Univeristy, where he has been on sabbatical, and along with Ricky Niell, travel south to investigate. There on the waters of Sarasota Bay they discover the disturbing truth about Glenn Spiegle’s conversion to the Amish faith and the reason for the long-smoldering hatred that has reached into the secluded pastoral valleys of Holmes County.

In Harmless as Doves, P. L. Gaus takes the action to Florida in one of the most exciting mysteries in this series. This is Gaus at his best.


Excerpts from Reviews of Separate from the World

The New York Times (July 24, 2011):
“Gaus . . . writes with feeling about the dissensions within the Amish community whenever unruly passions threaten its members’ pacifist principles.”

Publishers Weekly (05/16/2011):
“Multidimensional characters on both sides of the cultural divide give depth to the narrative. . . . It’s the complex interactions of these two very different cultures that make this such an enjoyable and enlightening read.”

Booklist (06/01/2011):
“Gaus spins a fine mystery with a strong background of Amish faith and plenty of detail on the difficulties the Amish face in the modern age.”

The Trade-Paperback Edition of Harmless as Doves, Which is Also Available in Electronic, Large Print, and Audio Versions, Published by Plume, A Division of Penguin Group USA.


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about the author

P.L. Gaus

Paul has lived in Wooster, Ohio, with his wife Madonna since 1977. His extensive knowledge of the culture and lifestyle of the Ohio Amish comes from over forty years of travel throughout Holmes and surrounding counties in Ohio, where the world's largest Amish and Mennonite population sprawls out over the countryside near Millersburg, Wooster, and Sugarcreek. Paul's novels have been reviewed in prominent journals and newspapers, for instance, Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Ohioana Quarterly, and the New York Times Book Review.