Her last breath

Title: Her Last Breath (Kate Burkholder #5)

Author: Linda Castillo

Read by: Kathleen McInerney

Category: Mystery

Audio published: June 18, 2013 by Macmillan Audio

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Audible | Amazon | Book Depository

An extraordinarily beautiful Amish woman, a dangerous femme fatale, is the central figure in a story that reveals a dark side of Painters Mill and its seemingly perfect Amish world.

A rainy night, an Amish father returning home with his three children, a speeding car hurtling toward them out of nowhere.

What at first seems like a tragic, but routine car accident suddenly takes on a more sinister cast as evidence emerges that nothing about the crash is accidental. But who would want to kill an Amish deacon and two of his children? He leaves behind a grieving widow and a young boy who clings to life in the intensive care wing of a hospital, unable to communicate. He may be the only one who knows what happened that night. Desperate to find out who killed her best friend’s husband and why, Kate begins to suspect she is not looking for a reckless drunk, but instead is on the trail of a cold-blooded killer amid the residents of Painter’s Mill. It is a search that takes her on a chilling journey into the darkest reaches of the human heart and makes her question everything she has ever believed about the Amish culture into which she was born.

Castillo’s Burkholder series is one I keep listening to even though they annoy me. I can honestly say this has been my favorite of the lot. Kate is a police chief and former Amish. She’s in a relationship with John Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Crime Investigation. In past installments I’ve found Kate melodramatic and the stories repetitive. I’ve been annoyed with her dwelling on the past and with the overly complicated romantic subplot. But I’ve stuck with it, thinking that eventually it would all come together, since they do tend to have a lot I like – a strong female protagonist, compelling plots, a setting I’m semi-familiar with. I can’t say Her Last Breath was perfect, but I do it’s a step closer, at least for me. You can find my reviews for the others I’ve listened to in the series here.

The blurb tells the basic plot. As always, I think Castillo shows the uneasy relationship between the Amish and non-Amish, in towns like Painter’s Mill, where the two groups are separate but still rely on each other. I’ve been to that area of Ohio often- tourism is a big deal. It also deals a little with some of the genetic issues the Amish face because they are more or less a closed society. Because the families are so interrelated many children have developmental difficulties. Castillo doesn’t paint the Amish as perfect, if anything she goes the other direction, showing they have flaws and failures like the rest of us. There are nice Amish and crazy Amish. And since she writes murder mysteries, more often than not we see the bad seeds.

In Her Last Breath, Castillo has toned down the drama and brooding a bit. Kate is still dealing with past issues, but they don’t seem to overwhelm her as much as they have in previous books. And this is one series you’ll want to read in order, they do build on each other. I wish I could just tell you to start with this one though, because I definitely enjoyed it more than the earlier ones.

The mystery is good and kept me on my toes. I was surprised by who the killer was, even though I probably should have guessed. But once again Kate does something stupid and should have ended up dead, but that’s par for the course when it comes to Kate. I think it’s happened in every book so far. Yes, it adds to the tension, but at the same time I’d like her to be smart about how she goes about things. She has a competent staff and should utilize them better.

The story is told in the first person and Kathleen McInerney’s voice has become Kate for me. She does both the action scenes and the more introspective passages well. She also makes it easy to differentiate between the characters.

This has been a series that had potential, but it’s finally getting to where I actually enjoyed the book.

Kate Burkholder Mysteries

1. Sworn to Silence
2. Pray for Silence
3. Breaking Silence
4. Gone Missing
4½. Long Lost
5. Her Last Breath
6. The Dead Will Tell (expected July 2014)