Clouds without Rain is a well-plotted, suspenseful tale about the core of the human condition, as illustrations by the thought and faith of the Amish, and by their stewardship of the land they hold sacred.
In this compact and tautly written mystery, the third in the series (after Blood of the Prodigal and Broken English), Gaus portrays vividly the clash of traditional Amish values with the forces of land development and greed. The author knows his setting and characters intimately from teaching in central Ohio, the land of horse-drawn buggies, conservative bishops, and kids who smoke, drink and otherwise defy their elders. Here Gaus's series hero, Professor Michael Branden, goes undercover to investigate teenage buggy robbers on mountain bikes, but soon becomes involved in something far more sinister. Part of Gaus's strength lies in graphic description, as in the horrifying opening scene of auto, tractor-trailer and horse-cart carnage. Dialogue, while often extended and intense, sounds authentic when spoken by devout Germanic church members trying to resist Branden, the police and the encroaching modern world. Gaus has structured his novel Dragnet style, relating events day-to-day, moment-to-moment, while the plot unfolds with deceptive simplicity from the initial gruesome accident. The title is emblematic of social problems in an old-fashioned land battered by change. Rural Ohio is suffering from a summer drought, but midway through his inquiry Branden learns the true biblical significance of a "cloud without rain, blown along by the winds." This revelation will also stir the reader. (June 1) FYI: The author is a professor of chemistry and alternative cultures at Wooster College in Ohio. There's a simultaneous paperback edition at $13.95, ISBN 0-8214-1380-5. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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June 01, 2001
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