After the Storm
A little bit over one percent of the crime in Pennsylvania is committed by the Amish. Most of that crime consists of drunken driving violations done by young people during the time they call Rumspringa, a period where they are allowed to experiment with the English world while trying to decide if they want to commit to the Amish way. I think that is part of why I struggle with each new Kate Burkholder book. While they are set in Ohio, I doubt the statistics are that different from Pennsylvania. A series based on murders committed in the Amish community by the Amish, it stretches my suspension of disbelief a bit more with each installment. I’m still addicted as all get out though.
Kate has brought her live-in significant other, John Tomasetti, to meet her Amish family. While Kate has left the church she still feels special ties to this community. Coming to her brother’s farm, which he inherited from her parents, stirs up a lot of memories from her childhood. Some are happy, some sad but as John points out, they are all part of what make her her. They’ve just sat down to fried chicken and fresh vegetables when she gets a call from her office. Those storm clouds in the distance are bringing a tornado with them and it is expected to hit the area in the next half hour.
After she and John all but push her family into their storm cellar, the two inform a few local farms of the coming danger. The area is especially vulnerable since the Amish don’t have TV or radios. Then they head to the basement of the local police station where they wait out the storm. As chief of police, Kate’s going to have quite a few busy days ahead of her if the tornado causes the damage they think it will.
It does and one of the first places Kate and John go to offer aid is the local trailer park. It has been especially hard hit and Kate fears they will find no survivors when she hears the mewling cry of an infant. In spite of danger from a gas leak and some stray electrical wiring, she goes in to rescue the baby and the incapacitated mother. She is devastated when she learns later that evening that the child died.
Another death greets her the next day. Turns out that while clearing one of the local farms of debris a group of boy scouts found a skeleton. In addition to the chaos caused by the storm, she will now have to work overtime to solve this cold case. But that might not be the most dangerous thing Kate is facing. Turns out her rescue baby was the daughter of one of the local meth dealers. And he and his wife blame Kate for the death.
I quickly found myself sucked into the story. The author juggles three essential plot lines with ease. We have Kate investigating the remains in the barn, a case which quickly shows itself to have ties to the Amish community. We have her dealing with the lawsuit from the meth dealer and beyond that, dealing with his nasty violent ways – along with the same from his wife. She and John also have a big issue going on in their personal lives which adds to all the stress she is under. When the bullets start flying and she finds herself repeatedly injured while on the job, the big question becomes whether she is really cut out for the life of a cop.
I didn’t take that question too seriously. Unless she took up some other kind of investigatory work there is nothing else she is really cut out for. Not much tension there. There was however a lot of tension in regards to whether or not Kate and John could weather this latest storm they found themselves facing. The author has done a really good job of showing us that John and Kate have a great relationship but that it is a relationship with a lot of stress factors – and fractures. John’s past continues to force him to take baby steps in terms of commitment. Kate’s many issues force her to cross question him when he does move forward. Both of them want to make this work but both of them are also ready to run if things get too traumatic. I think the way their relationship is written really captures who they are as individuals and a couple. It works for me.
The mystery worked for me as well. While a young Amish woman questioning her faith seems de rigueur for these books the elements were mixed up just enough for me to enjoy the story. There was still a strong sense of déjà vu but combining it with the other story lines made it seem a bit fresher. I should throw a word of warning in here -the crime is a bit grisly as we find out what actually happened. Not too graphic but disturbing enough that it might serve as a trigger for the squeamish.
The drama and trauma is brightened by the time spent with Kate’s co-workers. From the coroner, whom we see unwinding a bit, to Pickles, Glock and Mona it seemed most everyone made an appearance. The scene with Glock and the young calves at an Amish farm especially brought a smile to my face. The moment with the goat did too.
I had one quibble and it was that there seemed to be a bit more Amish bashing in this novel than I’ve noticed in the previous books. More than once they were referred to as close minded, intolerant and bigoted when they disagreed with how the English world did things. Hopefully this is just a fluke and the author didn’t intend for things to come across that way.
I was riveted by this book. It had flaws and certainly didn’t score any points for originality but it was a very good addition to the series. I’m already looking forward to the next one.