by Linda Castillo
With Amish roots and big city police experience, Kate Burkholder is the perfect candidate for police chief in Painters Mill.
But coming home to Painters Mill isn’t easy. Her family and former neighbors and friends aren’t entirely comfortable with the fact that she is no longer one of the Amish community and has been changed by her experiences outside of it.
A body discovered in a snowy field takes Kate back 16 years to a series of brutal murders that shattered the peaceful farming community. Kate herself survived the horror of the earlier “Slaughterhouse Killer,” realizing that she could no longer live in her Amish community.
Now as a police chief who must solve the murder in the field, Kate is forced to take a deeper look at a vow she made 16 years earlier. To break her silence will ruin her family and her career; to fail to catch the killer is unthinkable.
Kate’s secret complicates her already challenging relationship with Ohio State Agent John Tomasetti.
Castillo has brought a fresh spin to this mystery series with her setting in a community where the Amish and the “English” live together separated by customs, language and beliefs. The only flaw, in common with many mystery series set in small communities, is that as the death toll mounts it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that so many homicides could have happened in one small place.
Over the course of the series, there is an evolution in the relationship between Kate and Tomasetti, so reading the books in order is helpful.
Sworn to Silence was adapted into a two-hour movie titled “An Amish Murder” with Neve Campbell starting as Kate Burkholder.
Other books in the Kate Burkholder series include:
- Pray for Silence (2010). Newcomers to Painters Mill from Lancaster, Penn., the Plank family seem to be models of the Plain Life. Then one October night, the entire family of seven was found slaughtered on their farm. Investigating the murders in the secretive Amish community draws on all of Kate’s knowledge from her own years as a member of the Amish community.
- Breaking Silence (2011). The Slabaugh family are model Amish famers with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in the barn, it appears to be a terrible accident — methane gas asphyxiation due to a badly ventilated cesspit. An autopsy, however, shows that one victim had suffered a head wound before death. Is this a hate crime against the Amish? Or did someone want to make orphans of the Slabaugh children?
- Gone Missing (2012). Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience life without the rules before making a lifetime commitment to the Amish church. But when a teen disappears without a trace and then a dead body turns up, Kate must dig deeply into her own Amish roots to understand what happened.
- Her Last Breath (2013). A tragic road accident takes the life of an Amish man and his children. The event takes a personal turn for Kate when she learns that her childhood friend Mattie is the wife and mother of the victims. Kate has long wondered how Mattie, an extraordinarily beautiful woman, has settled into her roles as wife and mother. As the investigation continues, however, Kate discovers that nothing about this tragedy is accidental.
- The Dead Will Tell (2014). An apparent suicide (a man found hanging from the rafters in his barn) quickly points back to a 35-year-old tragedy when an Amish father and his four children died and his wife disappeared without a trace. A second death raises the possibility of a murderer avenging old wrongs.
- After the Storm (2015). When a tornado tears through Painters Mill and human remains are found, police chief Kate Burkholder finds herself responsible for identifying the bones. Quickly she finds herself plunged into a 30-year-old case that takes her deep into the Amish community she once belonged to.
- Among the Wicked (2016). The sheriff’s department in a rural, upstate New York community has asked for Kate’s help in penetrating the wall of silence between the Amish and “English” communities in connection with the death of a young girl. The plans for Kate to pose as an Amish woman and infiltrate the community. State Agent John Tomasetti is opposed to the plan, knowing she’ll have limited communication and less backup. The evidence suggests that children are in danger; Kate feels there is no other option than for her to pose as a widow seeking to start a new life.
The Author: Linda Castillo
New York Times best-selling author Linda Castillo grew up in western Ohio, where there is a large Amish population. In addition to the Kat Burkholder series, she has also written a number of romance and romantic suspense novels.
She currently lives in Texas with her husband.