You’d think Jesse Sands had been responsible for enough deviltry when, on his release from the New Jersey State Prison after serving every day of a 25-year sentence for rape and assault, he shot Janet Hawkins to death when she discovered him hiding in the house she shared with her father. But Janet’s murder is only the beginning of the trouble for the Amish community of Millersburg, Ohio. When her father David, who’s left behind his service as a sniper with the US Special Services in Vietnam to embrace Amish ways and Amish fiancée Abigail Raber, visits Sands in prison to forgive him for killing his daughter, Sands whispers something to him that causes him to go berserk, nearly strangling Sands before he pulls the deputy’s gun on him and vanishes. Less than two weeks later, Eric Bromfield, a young reporter for the Holmes Gazette who’d gone east to get the facts about Sands’s prison background, is shot and killed for doing his job all too well. Sheriff Bruce Robertson is certain that Hawkins is the culprit who’s waiting in the shadows for his chance to kill Jesse Sands. Only Pastor Caleb Troyer and Professor Michael Branden believe that David Hawkins’s conversion is sincere enough to prevent him from taking vengeance—and to point to a less peaceful type altogether.
Instead of burrowing as deeply into the Amish community as Branden’s slow-moving debut did (Blood of the Prodigal, 1999), Gaus expertly works the frontier between the peaceful Amish and “the English” who surround them, with bracing and welcome results.