Painters Mill is an idyllic town, but it’s not perfect. Serious cultural issues exist between the Amish and the English. With tourism being a big chunk of the economy, the town council wanted someone who was good at smoothing ruffled feathers, whether those feathers were Amish or English.
Sworn to Silence, Linda Castillo
Kate Burkholder lives uncomfortably between the two worlds that meet in Painters Mill, Ohio: she was born into an Amish family, but chose not to profess the Amish faith when she came of age. After falling into a law enforcement career in Columbus, she has returned to Painters Mill as the chief with a force of four cops. Her job is mostly about keeping cows off the roads and handing out the occasional DUI, until the body of a horrifically murdered young woman turns up in a snowy wood.
Sworn to Silence is told largely through Kate’s voice, in a first-person present that adds immediacy and tension to the story of how she tries to solve the case of a serial killer. Sixteen years earlier, when Kate was a teenager, Painters Mill was stalked by a serial killer, and people fear that the same killer has returned; a dark secret in Kate’s past, though, leads her to believe otherwise, though also to doubt the terrible event that set her life on its current course. Much of the story is about Kate trying to hide a secret while simultaneously trying to solve a crime, making for a tense and driven narrative.
Readers of serial killer thrillers won’t be much surprised by the plot of Sworn to Silence. The murders are gruesome, the town’s dark side is exposed, and there’s even the requisite profiling flim-flam. But the writing is of a far higher caliber than is typical of the genre–Castillo is not one to commit clunkers–and the main characters, particularly Kate, are compelling and well-rounded. Though the climax feels a little rushed and depends on some very lucky timing, the story is satisfying and compelling.
The back flap says that Castillo is working on the next Kate Burkholder book. It will be interesting to see the direction that book takes, since so much of Sworn to Silence revolved around the incident that tied Kate’s past to the current case. But given the quality of the first book, the second will be well worth reading.