Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sworn to Silence - Book Review

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
June 23, 2009
Minotaur Books

Why?  This was one of those specially priced downloads that I took advantage of a while back and just now got around to reading.
What now?  I've already downloaded the 2nd book in this series...Praying for Silence...I can't wait for more of Kate Burkholder!!  

Golden Lines

Murder is rare in the Amish community.  Most often, death is from natural causes.  It's viewed as a final surrender to God and is received gracefully.  Grief is a quiet and private event.  The sound that erupts from Ezra Augspurger's mouth reminds me that not all Amish are stoic.  They are human beings, and the loss of a child begets unbearable pain.  His cry of outrage and grief goes through me like cold steel.  Bowing his head, he presses the photo to his cheek.

The alcohol burns all the way down, but I drain the glass and pour again.  The things I saw today hover in the forefront of my mind.  Amanda Horner's savaged body.  The agony in her mother's eyes.  Jacob and I digging for the remains of a man I spent half of my life believing I'd killed.  I know alcohol won't solve my problems, but if I'm lucky, it will get me through the night.


Kate Burkholder grew up Amish in Painter's Mill, OH but decided to leave the church at 18 after never recovering from a violent crime when she was 14.  Not only did Kate leave her family, but she also left secrets, secrets that involve her father, brother, and sister and the events of the fateful night so long ago, secrets long buried, secrets that need desperately to stay buried.  Unfortunately, a killer has returned to Kate's hometown, the town for which she is now Chief of Police.  Kate knows more than she's supposed to know about this killer's can she do her job investigating the horrible, evil crimes, keep anyone else from being killed in the meantime, and protect her family and the Amish community at the same time?  Kate must battle inner demons, politics, invading officials from other law enforcement groups and her own family members in the process of stopping The Slaughterhouse Killer.

What I Liked

Amish life - I've always been interested in the Amish culture so these tidbits, the setting, the Pennsylvania Dutch phrases, and the conflict between the Amish and the rest of the world kept my attention throughout the novel.  Castillo explains through Kate's investigative mind the logic behind some of the Amish actions and clues that are found...Kate chose to leave the church but doesn't hate it.  She doesn't understand some of the beliefs and does question them when Amish beliefs keep her from getting to the bottom of a crime.  

Detective facts - "most serial murderers are sociopaths from birth.  As children, many begin their dark journey with animals.  Few are made later in life."  Again, as Kate investigates this killer, Castillo walks the reader through Kate's process as she makes sense of things, including her quick, analytical mind as it works through book knowledge and how it applies to the crime at hand.

John Tomasetti - brought in from Cleveland, OH to help with Kate's case.  Tomasetti is a damaged man; like Kate he suffered a great trauma, his just in the last few years while on the job.  He struggles to get past the murder of his wife and two daughters every. single. day.  Tomasetti is at a self-destructive stage in his life when he's sent to Painter's Mill and meets Kate; it's his last chance to prove he's still worthy of his job and very possibly his last chance to find some semblance of happiness. 

The Plot - I never had any idea who the killer was...I suspected the wrong person a couple of times and even hit the kitchen counter once bc I thought Castillo was preparing me for one of my favorite characters to be the killer. I followed the logic of the profile made by Tomasetti and found myself even thinking at times like a detective...leaving out the emotion and seeing flaws in certain movements of the investigation based on logic...pretty cool stuff!

Kate Burkholder - she reminds me a little of Kyra Sedgewick's character Brenda Johnson in The Closer.  Kate is not Southern, but her family and cultural values run deep...even if she doesn't agree 100% with them anymore.  She is nervous about relationships and flawed...Absolut gets Kate through the tough times though instead of Brenda Johnson's sugar;)
While Kate does battle external politics, for once we have a protagonist, a female in a traditionally male job, who is supported and respected by those around her, men and women alike.  

What I Didn't Like

When Castillo writes about violent crime, she means violent crime.  This book is not for the squeamish.  The descriptions of the bodies and the bit by bit unveiling of what actually happened to the young women from putting together the evidence will convince you (if you need convincing) that evil does exist in this world.  There is nothing supernatural here, just a psychopath who needs to be destroyed.  Even the most lenient, criminal rights advocates would want this killer removed from the world.

The victims are young women, and Castillo includes us not only in the investigation but in the human side of Kate's job such as notifying the family members...these were some of the most difficult scenes to a parent, I couldn't help but thinking about the real-life events on which Castillo must have modeled these scenes.  I don't wish anything like this on even those I dislike the most..on anyone, as a matter of fact.

Overall Recommendation
Though I've not read all of her books, I think readers of Patricia Cornwell would like Linda Castillo's foray into forensics, police work, murder, etc.  There's just enough crossover here to keep science fans guessing and putting the puzzles together as there are mystery elements.  


  1. I've been entertained by Castillo's books, but I have to many more violent crimes can happen in Amish country?  Methinks she is going to have to move her people somewhere else, or I will begin to get snarky.

  2. I've actually already read and written my reviews for the other two books and by book 3, I actually commented on the fact that realistically, Amish or not, if that many evil serial killers turned up in my neck of the woods over such a short span of time ---less than a year between Book 1 and Book 2---I'd be packing the U-Haul.  Her new one is out this June so hopefully she'll deal with that.  I hope so; I really enjoy her stuff.

  3. Wow, sounds like a really intense book. I know you said it's not for the squeamish, but like... how bad? Like James Patterson's 1st To Die bad? Or, errr... I dunno, Saw movies kind of bad? =/

    By the way... tag! You're it. :)

  4. The vast majority of my e-book purchases are by authors I've liked before, or through recs. I'll occasionally balk at a book with a truly hideous cover, if it's bad enough that I seriously don't want to encourage that publisher to ever do anything like that again. :P