I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, but rarely do they have me looking over my shoulder. Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo did. When I was out running, even some fall leaves crackling made me glance behind me, and then feel silly for doing it. It’s chilling and gets into your head, makes you realize that even the seemingly most peaceful small towns hold people with dark secrets and the potential of murder.

The story takes place in “Amish country” as we call it, a small town in Ohio where the Amish and non-mish live side by side, but still manage to be mostly seperate communities. Sixteen years ago, a series of murders rocked the small town but no one was arrested. Now, it seems the Slaughterhouse Killer has returned and it’s up to Kate Burkholder, chief of police to stop him.

Kate, of course, has her own secrets and her own reasons for believing the new murders are not the work of the Slaughterhouse Killer. After all, she survived an attack by him sixteen years ago, a traumatic event that stole her innocence and drove her from the Amish way of life. This big an investigation gets out of her hands though, with the local sheriff and a man from the Ohio Bureau of Crime Investigation, John Tomasetti, called in to help. John is another complex character, an alcoholic who is on the verge of being forced into retirement, a cop who has stepped outside of the bonds too often. Kate and John are both deeply disturbed, haunted by the past, but together they work.

First the bad – a lot of the character’s decisions, both in the present and the past, just didn’t make sense to me, and they were main plot points, not side lines that didn’t have any effect. Second, I could have done without the sex scene and budding romance between Kate and John. Sometimes relationships add to mysteries, but in the case I felt it detracted from the novel. Third, the writing seemed rather melodramatic at moments. Now, I did listen to this on audio, so part of that may have been due to the narrator, it might not have seemed that way in print. I didn’t even really like Kate. She’s too tough, too secretive and then too quick to share her secrets with John and jump in bed with him. I didn’t fully warm up to her.

It has some graphic scenes, which I felt made the situation more scary, made what Kate and John were doing more important, but others may be turned off by that.

I can’t say I enjoyed the book, necessarily, but it kept me engrossed. While not entirely believable, the story was chilling and intense, gripping.  I’m hoping that this is one of those series that gets better as it goes. It definitely has promise and I’m glad I read this because we did get to know Kate and John quite well and got a good feel for the town dynamics.

3 out of 5 stars

Category: Mystery – Police Procedural

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Kate Burkholder #1
Published June 23, 2009 by MacMillan Audio
Read by Kathleen McInerney
11 hours 37 minutes

Kate Burkholder Mysteries

  1. Sworn to Silence
  2. Pray for Silence
  3. Breaking Silence
  4. Gone Missing

Book source: Library