Linda Castillo


Released: 4th July 2010

Reviewer: Sue Lord


Sue Lord went to Art School and became an illustrator. She had success in later life as a painter but after the last recession decided to 'paint with words' and began writing short stories for magazines. She has an MA in creative writing, runs courses and does script doctoring.

A female chief of police in a small town in Ohio, Kate Burkholder was born Amish. Great, a change from all those Italian-American city cops, most have dominating Mothers, large families and eat copious amounts of food. They seem to inhabit the US crime fiction I have to read these days.

Well done, Linda Castillo. Any more sauce pomodoro and I shall be sick. The plot of this novel and the atypical setting is what held my interest.

All seven members of the Amish Plank family have been brutally murdered. At first Chief Burkholder thinks that Amos, the father, killed his family then committed suicide but it soon becomes clear that Amos was murdered too. Burkholder has to deal with the ‘demons’ of her past and the relationship between the Amish community and the ‘Englishers’ in Painters Mill. This is a town divided between culture and religion and Kate understands the difficulties of coming of age within the rigid Amish community. She finds the diary of Mary Plank, one of the teenage victims. Was the Amish the teenager living a double life, and did her secrets get her family killed? Kate Burkholder will stop at nothing to bring the killer to justice.

The ‘love interest’ is John Tomasetti from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. My heart sank when I read the name but he is not Italian American he is Afro American. Kate and John are two damaged people. A gruesome crime, with graphic violence and horror at the beginning of a thriller is to some extent necessary. But chapters two, three and four of this book are devoted to the aftermath of the murders; too many words and too much detail. Why? It holds up the story and shocking descriptions are shocking if they are short and to the point. Three chapters? Tedious.

Further into the book a video is discovered containing killings, rape and pornography. The reader has to endure lengthy descriptions of the footage. Again less is more, again it holds up the story.

I would be surprised if Kate Burkholder, written in first person, could hold down the job of Chief of Police. She overreacts, a suspect insults her; she attacks him. She chases a suspect through a cornfield at night, without back up. What was she doing there on her own, at night? She goes to a bar, in uniform and drinks a lot of vodka. She sets herself up as bait for a trap, of course the inevitable happens. She breaks down in tears so often that in the end we don’t care. Plus, Kate and Tomasetti behave like a couple of over emotional sixteen year olds. The only good thing about the relationship is that we are not burdened with graphic sex. The sex was handled perfectly.

Where have all the editors gone? e.g. when viewing the pornographic videos, Burkholder tells us that she can see the strain in a man’s face. How? Because earlier, she tells us that his face and head is completely covered in a latex hood.

Plagued by repetitious prose, this book could have been cut by at least 100 pages. Kate’s, histrionic inner dialogue tells us that this case is "the kind of scene that affects even the most hard-nosed of cops." Fair enough. Then it’s, some crimes are simply too terrible for the eyes to behold. And, she can't imagine the horrors these girls must have endured and much, much more in the vein. She tells us, over and over that this crime is harder on her because she too was an Amish teenager and something terrible had happened to her. By the time I found out what this was, I couldn’t have cared less.

Maybe the first person point of view didn’t work? Too much tell and not enough show? I think so. We know Kate used to be Amish and we know all about evil. We know she has a secret, why keep on telling us? It holds up the story, which was a good one.






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