Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sworn to Silence

With Sworn to Silence, the first book in her new Kate Burkholder series, Linda Castilllo makes the big jump from romance novels to suspense thrillers, and she makes the transition look easy. Castillo’s Kate Burkholder, police chief in little Painters Mill, Ohio, is an unusual woman. Raised in the Amish tradition, she is the only person in her immediate family to opt for life in the wider world upon reaching the age at which she could choose her own future. Surprising even herself, Kate chose a career in law enforcement that, several years later, made her the perfect choice to fill the role of police chief in her old hometown.

Once the target of a serial killer who claimed the lives of several of the town’s young women, Painters Mill has been a sleepy little community ever since the murders mysteriously stopped sixteen years earlier. Kate, with ties to both the communities she deals with everyday, and still fluent in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect the Amish prefer to speak to each other, proves to be a popular police chief and she is happy with her decision to return to Painters Mill.

Now, though, the town’s worst nightmares have become its new reality. Someone is kidnapping and killing young women in the area in what seems to be exactly the same way they were tortured and butchered sixteen years earlier. As the murders continue, and Kate does not seem eager to call in outside help, the town leaders lose confidence in her ability to protect them from the sadistic killer who is killing their daughters.

Kate knows that she needs help from experts but, for very personal reasons, she fears bringing in that kind of expertise. She knows who the killer is but cannot name him without exposing a dark secret of her own and betraying her family in the process. By directing the investigation in a certain direction, she hopes to catch the killer without having to expose her family’s secret.
Sworn to Silence is at times a brutal novel because Linda Castillo describes what happens to the killer’s victims in vivid terms, painting pictures that are hard to forget - crime scenes that have even hardened policemen struggling not to vomit. However, Castillo’s refusal to blink at the crime scene, in combination with her well crafted characters, makes the Kate Burkholder series one that I will look forward to reading for years to come.

Sworn to Silence
is not a flawless novel. One of its main characters, Kate’s love interest, achieves an unbelievable turnaround in his personal habits when he is sent to Painters Mill to work on the case, and the book’s ending might seem a bit formulaic to those who consider themselves veteran readers of the genre. These, though, are minor distractions in a book filled with promise of better things to come.

Rated at: 4.0

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