Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Outsider by Linda Castillo

Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder novels create more tension than most books I read. This series is one of my favorite ones, yet I have to pause while I read the books because they're stressful. Outsider, with Kate isolated with just an Amish family and an old friend, is one of the most stressful books I've read lately. I worried about that family for most of the book.

When Kate Burkholder left her Amish family and everything she knew,  Gina Colorosa was her life raft. The waitress fed her, gave her a place to stay, and, when she learned Kate only had an eighth grade education, pushed her to get her GED. Then the two young women went through the police academy and joined the Columbus Division of Police together. Kate was closer to Gina than she was to her own sister. But, when Gina took the wrong road, and Kate realized she was becoming a crooked cop, Kate got out. That's when she moved home to Holmes County. Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her former best friend, Gina Colorosa, haven't spoken since.

Gina is prepared when there's a no-knock warrant on her door in the middle of the night, and she escapes in a snowstorm, not knowing where she's going. She's a dirty cop who knows too much, and there are other cops ready to take her down. She realizes she's burned most of her bridges, and she isn't sure she can count on her old friend, Kate. But, before she can make it to her, she loses control of her truck in the snowstorm, and crashes. It's Adam Lengacher, an Amish widower with three children, who finds her in the snow, almost frozen, with a gunshot wound. And, he reaches out to the police chief.

Kate is stunned to recognize her old friend, but, now she's in an impossible situation. She should report the gunshot wound. She should arrest Gina when she learns there's a warrant. And, she doesn't believe all of Colorosa's story of dirty cops, stolen money, dead informants, and corruption at the top. But, Kate doesn't want to get her small team involved. There's a blizzard, and she's stuck at the farmhouse.

Burkholder's one connection to the outside world and the news reports is John Tomasetti, her partner, and an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Intelligence. Tomasetti arrives on a snowmobile, and he isn't happy with Kate's involvement in Gina's story. And, it only gets worse as Tomasetti investigates. Kate, Gina, and Tomasetti all fear someone will come looking for Colorosa after they make the connection to her and Burkholder.

Outsider brings Kate Burkholder's past back again. It's an untold story, how Kate became a police officer and survived after leaving her Amish family. It's a story of loyalty and trust, and the lack of it. There's quite a contrast between Kate's suspicion that Gina is lying to her, and Kate and Tomasetti's complete trust in each other and their relationship. Kate doesn't try to hide anything from him, although he's an agent who could arrest Gina. That trust and loyalty has grown in the course of the series, and it's obvious how strong their relationship has become. It's also a vivid contrast in the innocence and faith embodied in the Amish family with the corruption and flinty attitudes of Gina and her fellow vice squad members.

Usually, I mention how much I appreciate the strong family and friendship feeling about Burkholder's small team at the police department in Painters Mill. There's just a touch of that in the final wrap-up of this story. But, Castillo makes up for it with the family atmosphere created in the Amish household that shelters Gina and Kate. It's warm and comforting in the midst of the trouble Colorosa has brought down on the small community.  In the long run, though, Gina Colorosa brought the trouble upon herself as the result of decisions she made ten years earlier when she took a path Kate Burkholder refused to follow. Outsider is a tragic story of consequences and decisions, and a timely story right now, of corrupt cops and their willingness to do anything.

Linda Castillo's website is www.LindaCastillo.com

Outsider by Linda Castillo. Minotaur Books, 2020. ISBN 9781250142894 (hardcover), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Jeff Meyerson said...

Sounds good. I'm really looking forward to this one. Usually, the first chapter of these books has the (often) bloody murder(s).

Lesa said...

This book is nerve-wracking, Jeff.

Kay said...

I just started this one this morning. I can already see that I'll be absorbed in it until it's done. Honestly, I've been having trouble immersing myself in a book and I'm delighted to find one that suits me so well. I skimmed your review, but I imagine there wasn't anything that I likely couldn't have guessed in the 14% of the book I've read so far. Ha! I love this series and I know it's a little fraught for what you usually like. It's perfect for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it, Lesa!

Lesa said...

You are so right, Kay. I'm careful not to reveal spoilers. I love the series, though, and one point, that I can't reveal, made me fine with continuing. I'm glad you found a book to keep your attention!

Jeff Meyerson said...

To get ready, I've been catching up with the short stories she has been publishing in the series over the years. I'm up to the new one of those and the new novel.

Lesa said...

I hope you can get it soon from the library, Jeff.