Kate Burkholder is chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio, a community that includes Amish families. She's not happy when she has to break up a fight between teens, and even less happy when she discovers one of the girls involved is a fifteen-year-old Amish girl on rumspringa. Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience the outside world, giving them the opportunity to decide if they want to be baptized and live under Amish rules for the rest of their lives. And, Sadie Miller reminds Kate of her own self, a rebellious Amish girl who eventually left, went to college, and was cut off from her family.
With an officer on vacation, Kate has put in long hours, but when she receives a phone call from John Tomasetti asking her to consult on a case, she's eager to help. Over the last year and a half, Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation has become a colleague, a friend, and Kate's lover. Although they keep their work lives professional, the two are always aware of their past histories, and that they need and depend on each other. In this investigation, Tomasetti has a case in which there are two missing teenagers who are Amish. He's hoping she can help since she's fluent in Pennsylvania Dutch and has an intimate knowledge of the plain life.
Each time Kate, Tomasetti, and fellow officers approach the parents of the missing girls, it breaks Kate's heart to see the expectations and sorrow in the mother's eyes. However, the case only gets worse as they uncover accounts of other Amish teens who have gone missing. And, then Kate is called back to Painters Mill when a local girl disappears.
Castillo excels at character development. As the narrator, Kate reveals her inner struggles. And, she and Tomasetti both struggle with their past. Kate is aware of that. "People like us excel at keeping secrets, especially when they're big ones." And, this particular case, with the missing girls, tears at both of them. "There are a lot of themes running through this case, threads that hit a little too close to home for both of us." These characters are all the more interesting because of their flaws.
However, Castillo also develops her minor characters. The other members of Kate Burkholder's team in the police department may not have major roles, but they are unique people who come alive in the story. And, they are essential to a police department. Castillo's books may be fast-paced thrillers, but they have elements of police procedurals as the police carefully follow clues and develop cases.
You can't overlook the contrast between the quiet Amish life and the violent crimes that affect their community in these books. Castillo's details of the Amish lifestyle are so beautifully revealed that the brutal crimes are even more shocking. Her thrillers are effective because of that contrast.
Linda Castillo won me over with the first book in this series, Sworn to Silence. Start at the beginning of this series, and get to know Kate Burkholder and John Tomasetti. You won't regret watching them develop as characters, or watching Kate develop as police chief. And, Gone Missing will be going on the list as one of my favorite crime novels of 2012.
(Note: Check back on my blog after 6 PM PT tonight when I kick off this week's contest. I'll be giving away two copies of Gone Missing.)
Linda Castillo's website is www.lindacastillo.com or you can find more information at https://www.facebook.com/
Gone Missing by Linda Castillo. St. Martin's Minotaur. 2012. ISBN 9780312658564 (hardcover), 277p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it, and the publicist is supplying the two books for the giveaway that starts tonight.