Linda Castillo’s Sworn to Silence and Pray for Silence kept appearing on my Amazon.com recommended books list and who wouldn’t love a murder mystery set in Amish country?? I got them both on Swap.com and gave them a whirl.
Sworn to Silence is the first book in a series about Kate Burkholder, a female chief of police in small-town Ohio, in Amish country. Burkholder actually grew up Amish but before she was officially baptized she left her family, hometown and Amish-lifestyle behind and became a police officer in Cleveland. Recently though, Burkholder is asked to return to Painters Mill, OH, as the new chief of police, a role she’d fit into well considering she’s familiar with both the English and Amish way of life.
Sworn to Silence starts off with a brutal murder and everyone in town is reminded of a serial killer, nick-named the Slaughterhouse Killer, that terrorized the town 14 years ago. The female victim was killed in the exact same manner as the earlier victims–but Burkholder has a secret that makes her believe this can’t be the same killer. As the murders continue, Burkholder tries to keep her reputation as a competent police chief in tact while keeping the secrets from her past hidden–and solving the crime.
Pray for Silence continues with Burkholder as chief of police and this time, an entire Amish family is found murdered in their home. At this point I was already thinking, how many brutal murders can take place in a small Amish town in Ohio?? But if you look past that, this is a dark thriller with some interesting twists. Not only was the family murdered, but the teenage daughters were tortured before they were killed. Turns out that Mary, the older daughter, had some secrets that may have provided motivation for the killing. When Burkholder finds Mary’s diary, it becomes clear that the killer lives in Painters Mill and the tiny police force races to uncover the killer’s identity.
I give Castillo points for creativity with the Amish country setting, having a female in the role of police chief and for creating interesting characters. As a whole, the books were good (though I thought Sworn to Silence was better), the plots were catchy and Castillo doesn’t hold back with the gory details surrounding the murders. On the other hand, there were parts of the book that were so predictable. For instance, Burkholder doesn’t sleep or eat for the majority of the investigations…she makes enemies with important members of the town in the first book and eventually that catches up to her…an outside agent is brought in from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Burkholder falls for him (seriously?) and he’s able to travel to Painters Mill to help out with both cases….and Burkholder drinks an awful lot of shots of vodka, which apparently helps her think better and solve murders? But if you can get past the cheesiness, they’re decent, easy reads…maybe for the beach? Castillo’s third book, Breaking Silence, came out in June but for now I’m taking a break from Amish murder mysteries.