After years of reading almost nothing but mystery/thrillers (they were mostly free, don't judge!), it is pretty hard to find a book in that genre that feels entirely new to me. Part of why I like a lot of mysteries and thriller is because they are usually fairly predictable and formulaic, thereby allowing me to lose myself in the story of the moment without actually having to think terribly hard. Admittedly, this gets a bit old. And it is for that reason that I am glad that I discovered Linda Castillo and her Kate Burkholder series.
I read the first book in this series, Sworn to Silence, earlier this year. It introduces chief of police Kate Burkholder, a former Amish who chose not to be baptized into the church after a traumatic event in her childhood. Pray for Silence starts with the discovery of an Amish family murdered in their own home-mom, dad, and five children. Violent crime is very rare in the Amish community, and Kate can't imagine what the motive could be. But the Amish have the same human fallibility as the rest of us, and it soon became apparent that at least one of the family members was hiding a secret that put their entire family in danger. Kate once again teamed up with state bureau of investigations agent John Tomasetti, who shows up in Painters Mill after being suspended for a failed drug test. Their budding relationship continues, both of them dragging their respective baggage, and tripping over it more often than not, in their desire to be together.
The horrific nature of the crime scene stands out starkly against the backdrop of the peaceful Amish community, though the bulk of the action in this novel takes place in the English community, not the Amish. Castillo does a decent job of describing the Amish community, their history and traditions, in such a way that it does not feel stereotypical. Where she is pretty stereotypical, however, is in the characters of Kate and John. I mean, to read most mystery writers, one would assume that all detectives are damaged, stand-offish, and terrible at relationships. Add the fact of Tomasetti's drug and alcohol problems, and you have a caricature of every hard-boiled detective ever. Luckily I don't read her books for creative characterization, but for an engaging story set in an unusual setting, and that Castillo delivers on.
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