Sworn to Silence
Sworn to Silence is the first book of the Kate Burkholder series about a formerly Amish chief of police who is charged with maintaining the safety of both the Amish and the English citizens in her small Ohio town, Painters Mill. I quite enjoyed it and look forward to the next in the series, coming this summer.
Kate has been Chief of Police for a few quiet years and, despite being under the bann by her former community, they’ve been pleasant years. Then a body of a young woman is found in a field. Before death she was tortured, raped, and cut. The method of murder and the strange marks on her abdomen harken back to a series of murders that occurred more than a decade ago when Kate was only a teenager. It looks like Painters Mill may have its serial killer back.
For Kate in particular this is extremely bad news because she believes she was responsible for getting rid of the killer all those years ago. One innocent day in the far off past, a man named Daniel Lapp raped Kate and she shot him in defense. Her father and brother considered this an Amish matter and disposed of the body without informing the police of his death. It’s been a family secret for all this time, festering and seeping, not healing one bit. Kate knows if what she did became public knowledge, her life as she knows it will end. But she also knows it’s her duty to catch the killer, and if she doesn’t do all she can to find and stop him, any other murder will be on her head.
A warning: parts of this book are pretty damn grisly. Readers who can’t take that should stay away. I’ve categorized this as a mystery, which it is, but it has real elements of romantic suspense. Castillo brings in the character of John Tomasetti, a nearly washed up state agent with a tragic past, and his interactions with Kate have the beginnings of series-long romance written all over them. Still, the focus here is primarily on the case not on their relationship.
The interesting angle of this series is the differences between the Amish and English of Painters Mill and how Kate straddles both cultures and fits neatly into neither. The Amish are not portrayed in either a romantic or an overly critical way. They are three-dimensional characters like the others. Kate does not seem particularly Amish in her thought patterns, but she has deliberately left the culture behind in about every way she could, so that’s understandable.
Sworn to Silence is an interesting beginning to a series I intend to follow. Readers of Julia Spencer-Fleming and Karin Slaughter might want to check it out.