Writers were encouraged to write about a single topic that interested them, and avoid summarizing the book. Reviews were limited to 150 words, though some writers wrote longer.
2009 -Winners -in alphabetical order
Julie Caton, Oakfield
Paul Gaus depicts three professional men as the heroes of his murder mystery. But in the wings of this book’s stage, three women take on the role of the true heroes. Cathy Billet, a college sophomore, stands against the murderer by threatening to divulge his fake research. She is killed for her integrity. Rachel Ramsayer, a lonely lady, writes to Pastor Cal Troyer asking boldly if he might be her biological father. In the end Rachel not only meets her father, but learned about the Amish community from where he great-grandfather originated. Finally, Caroline Branden, the professor’s wife, surprises us with her hidden skill, pistol shooting. She stands “in the doorway with a double-fisted grip on a black revolver, her feet planted wide.” It is Caroline, not a man, who ends the life of the murderer. Praise to Mr. Gaus for including three empowered women as heroines in his story.
Linda Daviau, Batavia
While weaving his mystery, “Separate from the World,” author P.L. Gaus shares with his readers a glimpse into the Old Order Amish culture, often for many of us, a mystery unto itself. This mystery skillfully intertwines the lives of the Amish and English. His Amish characterizations bring to the reader insight into their desire for life’s simplicity while having to face conflict from the outside world. This story begins with an Amish man, knowing the history and importance of being “separate,” reaching out for help from the English to solve the suspected murder of his brother. Through the eyes of his character, Professor Michael Brandon, Gaus tells his tale of murder, kidnapping and deception. As a lover of a good mystery, there was a smile on my face as I read the last few pages. Read “Separate from the World,” to see what I was smiling about!
Meghan Hauser, Perry
The rapid fire series of murders, kidnappings and intrigue that unfold over a short few days in P.L. Gaus’ “Separate From the World” made me sympathize with the book’s Amish community and their desire to insulate themselves. However, turning our backs does not keep the world’s events from infiltrating and affecting our lives, and so both the book’s Amish community and the reader are compelled by unexpected events to get involved in solving the mystery.
In this sixth Ohio Amish Mystery Series book, I learned enough about main characters to recognize their motives and to care about their fates. Supporting cast members were more caricatures than characters, perhaps an unavoidable consequence of the story’s fast pace. The author’s layering and eventual collision of the frenetic mayhem of the “English” world (on steroids) with the simple life of the Ohio Amish made for a startling and successful contrast.
Frances McNulty, Batavia
JUST FINISHED the book. I liked Caroline immediately upon meeting her. The author portrayed her as an understanding, intelligent, and supportive partner to her husband, Professor Michael Branden. It was probably intentional that she was not presented as integral. Her distaff role as wife and homemaker, although a worthy career, is often considered insignificant today.
Although most of us probably know few (if any) Amish people personally, the book offered interesting details about the sect’s beliefs and lifestyle. Their genetic aberration (dwarfism) is another aspect about which we were probably unaware. It seems the Amish have always been a curiosity and somewhat of a tourist attraction to us “English” folk.
Caroline’s insightfulness in dealing with the Amish families during their time of crisis provided evidence of her compassionate character and her sensitivity. Therefore it was a delightful surprise to have her revealed also as so heroic.