Everything about this book completely fits the conventions of the genre: feisty female police chief with a dark secret in her past; gruesome series of murders involving young and attractive women being raped and tortured; small town politics which interfere with the investigation etc. The setting in a half-Amish community is the only thing that doesn't conform to stereotype but it's not significant enough to really impact the plot. But that said, this is a page-turner and slips down really easily.
The style is sharp, short, punchy and workman-like, nothing stylistically elegant here, and the narrative is a mix of first-person and third-person which can be a bit clumsy and irritating. The murder investigation itself is pretty slow: no clues, no build-up, nothing to rack up the tension rather than yet another grisly murder (and it's quite graphic so any sensitive souls might like to skim or avoid); and the solution seems rather arbitrarily plucked out of the air.
Not a bad book, ultimately, but a completely `by-numbers' one. I don't read a lot of `serial killer' books but I suspect if you do, you'll have heard it all before. Great holiday or travel read as it doesn't require much attention, but instantly forgettable.
on 30 July 2009
This is a serial killer thriller set in Amish country in Painters Mill, Ohio, USA. Painters Mill is a small rural town with both Amish and 'English' residents. Katie Burkholder is formerly a member of the Amish community, but now the town's Chief of Police. Someone was killing young women in the town more than fifteen years ago but suddenly stopped and the case is still unsolved. However, in the present day, a young woman's body is discovered and this bears the same hallmarks as the previous killings. For the Chief of Police, this new killing threatens to reveal secrets that should have stayed in the past.
The plot is suspenseful, fast moving with very graphic descriptions of the murder victims. The writing style comprises short, succinct sentences and equally short chapters. There is a pervading atmosphere of fear and tension in the novel which increases with each chapter. The story is mainly narrated in the first person from Katie's viewpoint but switches to the third person narrative when focusing on other characters.
There are brief insights into the Amish culture and this novel reflects elements of the film 'Witness'. This was the first novel by this author that I'd read and was initially attracted by the opportunity to learn more about the Amish culture and I was not disappointed.
I found the novel easy to read, liked the writing style and for me, this book had the right mixture of suspense, graphic description and interesting characters without being a clichéd serial killer thriller. I do hope the author intends to write a series of novels featuring Chief of Police Katie Burkholder.
I really liked the sound of this - a young, female, Amish detective who has very good reason to believe a serial killer is dead, faces a moral dilemma when he appears to be striking again. The book has all the components of a thriller of this kind - heroine with a dark secret, a damaged 'rogue' police officer with a heart of gold, plenty of atmospheric landscape, some descriptions of murder and victims that were very visceral (I actually nearly didn't read the book after a really disturbing opening), the pressure to find the killer before he strikes again etc. And some of the writing is very good indeed.
But as a book, it just didn't make it for me mainly because the main characters were too two dimensional and formulaic. It felt as if the author had read a 'how to write a thriller about a serial killer' book and then taken its advice word for word. The main character's back story (the dark secret) was, in my opinion, far too far-fetched and I couldn't empathise with her at all because of this.
It's a good way to pass a few hours, an undemanding read and typical of its genre. So if that sounds like your cup of tea, enjoy!
This is Linda Castillos debut novel and is categorised in the crime/thriller genre of book.
Wow, what can I say? I picked up this book after reading the jacket info and let me tell you, it gives you no clue as to how good a read this book really is. The story is set in Painters Mill, a sleepy town which is both English and Amish. Kate Burkholder was born and raised Amish and then went against the grain and ended up as acting Police Chief in the same town that she was born and raised in. One night they get a call that is par for the course in a town like Painters Mill saying there are cows running loose. When one of Kate's colleagues arrives he doesn't find just loose cows on the road.
When Kate arrives on the scene she is greeted with a crime scene so horrific it will have the hairs on your arms standing on end. Kate isn't sure whether she can deal with a case like this but vows to catch the killer.
John Tomasetti is a cop that has had to deal with his own demons and he is drafted in to help with the case. When he meets Kate, he realises that not only is this case a reason to drag himself out of the hole he has been in the last year or so, but a time to delve into the troubled past of Kate Burkholder.
Together they work at not only solving the case and finding the killer, but dealing with their own secrets and troubled pasts.
I can honestly say that I had no expectations for this book but was thoroughly engrossed (to the point that I missed my train stop because I was too busy finishing it). I loved the writing style and because of the Amish angle, found it quite a refreshing read as I haven't read a book quite like this one before. The characters were good but maybe it would be nice to get more insight into Kate Burkholder but this still didn't stop my enjoyment of the book. The last few chapters made for a fantastic ending too. Wonderful book and I look forward to the next one.
'Sworn to Silence' is set in a township that has 2 societies, one Amish, and one 'English'. Katie is the chief of police, but was born and raised Amish, before rejecting the lifestyle and faith, and becoming 'English'. She has no contact with the Amish - not even her brother and sister - other than in a professional way, as she turned her back on everything that they believe in. Katie has had to endure a lot of professional enmity, due to the fact that she is a young woman, and doing what is considered to be a 'mans job'. Years earlier, there was a sadistic serial killer who tortured and mutilated woman, before killing them. Then it stopped. Then, one dark snowy night, a young woman's frozen, mutilated body is found, and the whole case starts again. Katie has reason to believe that it cannot be the same killer, but the case is identical to the ones in the past. More bodies are found, special agents are called in, and the case is taken out of Katie's hands. However, secrets and lies have a way of catching up with us, and Katie is going to have to face up to hers in order to bring this case to it's conclusion. This is a highly-charged, gripping book, immensely readable, dark and compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would highly recommend it.
on 29 June 2010
Like other reviewers, I too stayed up rather too late to finish this book in one sitting. I'd also agree that it wasn't difficult to guess where the plot was going (both the whodunnit and the whydunnit) but the characters are well written and it's a perfect (if a little gruesome at times) novel for long, hot summer nights. I'll definitely be reading the follow-up novel (Pray for Silence) and am just debating whether to order it on Amazon or wait for it to come back into the local library (there's a watiing list!).
The only distraction which is neither the fault of the author nor the book itself is that I found myself wondering who will be cast in the main roles when it is (as it surely will be!) made into a Hollywood movie!
I won't reiterate the synopsis - others have got there before me. Unusually for the Daily Mail their quote above is a pretty accurate synthesis of the 'pitch' of this novel - "Think Harrison Ford in the movie Witness and add just a touch of the Coen brothers' Fargo". That's the tone that's being aimed for, and largely the book succeeds in meeting the pitch - and with 30 years distance away from 'Witness' the Amish angle works well in this frame. The heroine - who of course is intended to be the star of a future franchise - ticks all the boxes for a heroine in the genre - tough, resourceful, troubled past. The story ticks all of the boxes too - a decent level of research, a breezy writing style, plenty of suspense, a plot that follows all the tropes and touchstones of the genre.
And this is also the most obviously negative of the book; it's formulaic, the characters are identikit, and it will by no means challenge the reader. Now these are not necessarily bad things - sometimes we all like a bit of formula - there's a reasons why formulas arise, because they're popular, it's a feedback loop. Ditto the identikit characters (and to be fair, if Castillo continues with the character there'll be lots of opportunity to expand her). So you have to ask yourself, do you want something that will challenge you, something new and original for the genre, and something that will keep the most sophisticated reader guessing? Or do you want a good uncomplicated 2-3 hour read that will make a train journey fly by? If it's the latter, you can do a lot worse.
on 19 April 2011
Continuing the dark tradition of Patricia Cornwell & Kathy Reichs, this is a gruesome crime novel with an assertive female lead, in this case former Amish now Police Chief Kate Burkholder. The history of why Kate left the Amish community haunts her and she is joined in her investigation by a BCI field agent also damaged by his past.
I admit that it took me the first 100 pages but then I was hooked. A run of the mill serial killer thriller became un-put-downable, mainly due to the author's flowing style of writing. The background setting of a small rural town with a significant Amish population provides real interest and the freezing cold of winter pervades every page.
There is the explicit and unpleasant violence to be expected in a book of this genre so it may seem strange to mention the following but the book is peppered with the strongest swearwords, including the not irregular use of the c-word. Depending on your sensitivity, you, like me, may find the level of foul language pointlessly extreme and a distraction from the story.
I gather that Linda Castillo usually writes romantice stories and this is her first crime novel. Well, I am sure the romances bring in the money to pay the bills thus affording her time to write this exciting and well written crime, but I feel that in this new genre she has found her metier. She must be very versatile to be able to switch from one style of writing to another.
Painters Mill is a sleepy rural town where its citizens, both Amish and 'English'live together quite happily. As with the Ice Princess, the germ of this story lies in the past where a series of brutal, unsolved murders shattered the lives of this community. When the killings stopped Painters Mill settled back into its quiet existence until sixteen years later a body of a young woman is found in a snowy field with numerals carved on her abdomen as in the previous deaths. Do we have a new murderer on the loose playing copycat or has the old killer re-emerged?
In this novel, we have the stock characters, the town councilors resenting the fact that the new Chief of Police is Kate Burkholder a former member of the Amish community, a self aggrandising local Sheriff out for re-election and enjoying the publicity this series of new murders brings, and then the maverick detective from out of town who is foisted on Kate. He is a widower, burnt out after his family were murdered and he went to seek revenge, on the brink of alcoholism and on his last chance mission.
The usual mix, but it works. It is a bit Grisham like in that every car is 'gunned' away from the kerb and phone numbers are 'punched' in and there are a fair few cliched sentences. However, it is exciting stuff and as the bodies pile up and the reader starts working out who could have done it, the momentum doesn't stop until an exciting, incredibly filmic denouement.
Looking forward to the next one.
on 28 January 2011
absolutely fantastic - I couldn't put this one down! I read this one after receiving pray for silence as a present and enjoyed that one so much I purchased another book, (read sworn to silence first as pray for silence refers to things which happened in sworn to silence). Loved both books and am eagerly awaiting breaking silence in June 2011