“An Amish Murder Mystery?”
A Review of
Separate from the World.
by Paul L. Gaus.
By David Neuhouser.
Separate from the World is the sixth in a series of mysteries set in the Amish community of
The book begins with the apparent accidental death of an Amish man and the apparent suicide of a college girl. These seemingly unrelated events are followed by more strange occurrences. It seems impossible that there could be any connection between all of these incidents but of course there is and Gaus cleverly leads us to the solution. The “detective” is Michael Brandon, a professor of history at the college.
At the beginning
The author shows real understanding of Amish culture and also of the culture of academe. And, although he is sympathetic with both worlds, he shows the darker sides of each as well. In the academic world, we read about student cheating, partying and studying; faculty and student protests against war and the police: and the pressures of presidential fund raising. Town/gown problems are evident here as well.
Amish beliefs and culture are portrayed sympathetically but the “English,” as the Amish refer to outsiders, are frustrated and sometimes angered by the non-resistance of the Amish. When asked if they are not going to do anything to protect themselves, they answer that they are praying. The Amish show patience and peace throughout their troubles. They believe that suffering is God’s will for them and that they will grow through the process.
Following is a fragment of a conversation between the professor and the Amish man,
“Humility is the …”
“Yes, I know – the strongest virtue.”
“No Professor. The most beautiful virtue.”
The “English” are upset with what they believe are inconsistencies in the Amish use or refusal to use technology or science. One of the problems in the book is that there is a split in the Amish congregation about whether or not to cooperate with a genetic study by college professors and students. Scientists want to study the occurrence of genetic defects among the Amish because of the limited gene pool among them due to the fact that few outsiders marry Amish. On the other hand the Amish believe that the “English” are also inconsistent. The Amish bishop says to
I have given just a few of the thought-provoking descriptions of college and Amish life contained in the book. The reader can learn much about both cultures from this captivating and well-written mystery.
David L. Neuhouser is the Scholar in Residence at the Center for the Study of C. S. Lewis and Friends at
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com