If you can go way back in your memory to James Patterson's early Alex Cross books, you will understand the pleasure of reading Linda Castillo's debut thriller, Sworn to Silence. The excitement, the fast pace, and the serial killer reminds me of the best of early Patterson.
Kate Burkholder is the police chief in Painters Mill, a small town in Holmes County, Ohio, Amish Country. She's only been on the job two years, hired to come home because she had grown up Amish, could speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and could work with the ordinary townspeople as well as the Amish. But, her background as a police officer, and a homicide detective, might not be enough when a young woman's body is found. Kate and the coroner both recognize the killer's trademark, something that hasn't been seen on a body in sixteen years in Painters Mill.
Now, Police Chief Burkholder has to look for a killer, while keeping at bay her own demons, memories from sixteen years earlier, when a fourteen-year-old Kate thought she faced down that same man. She's eager to keep the case under wraps, and keep her own secrets. When the town council calls for help from the local sheriff and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Kate has to cover up her past. But, it's going to be hard to keep secrets from John Tomasetti, the cold-eyed investigator, a rogue himself, who is sent in from the BCI, an agency with its own agenda.
Castillo's Sworn to Silence marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in crime fiction. It's a voice that introduces a flawed character, Police Chief Kate Burkholder, a woman with a fascinating, unfamiliar background. Amish Country has been used as a background for crime novels and movies, including Witness. But, Burkholder, with her feet straddling both the Amish and the modern world, is a welcome addition to those books. Sworn to Silence is violent and graphic, with the details of torture and death. The contrast to the peaceful Amish world, and a quiet January in Painters Mill, makes the thriller that much more powerful. Castillo, and Police Chief Kate Burkholder, are worth watching.
I stand corrected. Although Sworn to Silence is Castillo's first thriller, it is not her first novel. Actually, she's an award-winning author of romantic suspense. My mistake. But, she is worth watching as a thriller writer, and as the author of this series.
Linda Castillo's website is www.lindacastillo.com
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2009. ISBN 9780312374976 (hardcover), 336p.