Review: Down a Dark Road

Review: Down a Dark RoadDown a Dark Road (Kate Burkholder, #9) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #9
Published by Minotaur Books on July 11th 2017
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A strong mystery made important by the personal emotional journey of Kate makes this book compelling.  The force of the book comes not only from the twisty mystery but also the strength of Kate’s emotional involvement.  Plus some sweet time with John.

THE STORY:  As this story begins, the series heroine Kate Burkholder is still the chief of police of her small town in Amish country.  She receives notification that a man, Joseph King as escaped from prison.  An Amish man convicted of murdering his wife, police believe there is possibility he will come for his five children who are living in Kate’s jurisdiction.  Kate knows Joseph King.  He was her first crush when the two were children but they haven’t seen one another since Kate was fourteen.  When she is ambushed by King, who has taken his children hostage, she hears a tale of a man who claims he did not murder his wife but was framed.  At first, Kate doesn’t believe anything King says until things begin to seem strange in the supposedly straightforward story.

OPINION:  This book proves what I believe about this series — the best stories are ones where Kate is personally connected and invested in the outcome.  While the mystery is good on any level, her personal connection, the struggles the investigation causes for her are what kept me reading this book.

This case tests Kate on both a personal and a professional level.  Kate has so little space for innocence in her life that the corruption of one of her sweet childhood memories challenges her.  Her adult cop skepticism and her belief in her childhood friend clash dramatically as she struggles to reconcile what she knows the truth is and what her intuition tells her.  The complication here is that her police intuition keeps taking her in different directions.

The fascinating thing here is that this book is also a journey of innocence, loss of innocence and holding on to something pure in the past.  Although the lives of all those children have become more complicated, more nuanced and less pure and innocent, something of those people still remains in the adults they have become.

I don’t want to discuss any of the particulars of the mystery since that is the central part of the story, but I really enjoyed the interaction between Kate and the Amish community here as she navigates her investigation.  This book relies less on the Amish customs as a hook in the story.  Indeed, this book is of the Amish community without being about the community.  The story could have taken place anywhere with anyone.

There is a common theme of the dark underbelly of what appears innocent and good.  This series often uses this in terms of the Amish community.  The same appears here, but there is another twist that I really enjoyed.

This series continues to be a compelling read for me and I highly recommend it for those who love mystery with some romance on the side.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Although this book isn’t classified as a romance, I’m still compelled by the romance between Kate and BCI State agent John Tomasetti continues to pull me in although there is little drama between them and thus less “screen time”.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  DOWN A DARK ROAD is the ninth book in the Kate Burkholder series.  This is a self-contained mystery novel but, of course, there are recurring characters and relationships secondary to the mystery.  This book can be read as a standalone although it is better to be immersed in the overarching personal story as well.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Only the Lucky

Review: Only the LuckyOnly the Lucky (Kate Burkholder, #8.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #8.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 23rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 56
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This is a nice short story in the Kate Buckholder universe. The story isn’t particularly complicated but gives a small sense of the overarching issues that are invested in the series — Amish-English relationship and conflict, Kate’s work as a small town police chief and her romance.

THE STORY:  It is Friday the 13th in Painters Mill and plenty is going wrong.  A “rager” is being held where both Amish and English are attending.  Drinking, drugs and all sorts of problems that young people can get into are expected and enough to give Kate a headache. At the same time, an accident causes a power outage in town.  When one of the Amish girls attending the rager is attacked and left for dead, Kate has to find out who wanted to hurt this young woman.

OPINION:  I enjoyed this story although the solution seemed pretty basic to me and I figured it out almost immediately.  I did like, however, this glimpse of Kate who seems much more settled and happy. I wish we had seen more of her and Tomasetti because I really love their relationship but we did see how peaceful they are right now which was nice.

Because of the length of this story, things happen pretty quickly. I also liked the secondary romance in the story and was surprised at how well everything dropped into place with all the moving parts of the story and the various characters.

The novels in this series tend to be much more angst driven so it was nice to see a more uncomplicated mystery for Kate to solve.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a very short story and only gives a small taste of the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONLY THE LUCKY is a short story that is 8.5 of the Kate Buckholder series. This story is a taste and introduction to the series for new readers and a bridge story for readers of the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Among the Wicked

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Among the WickedAmong the Wicked (Kate Burkholder #8) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #8
Published by Minotaur Books on July 12th 2016
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

“Maybe Tomasetti was right. Maybe I’d get up there and find myself in over my head. Then I thought of the dead fifteen-year-old Amish girl, the forty children at risk, and an Amish community that has fallen under suspicion, and I realize that I didn’t have a choice. All I can do is my best.  It’s all any of us can offer.  I hope it’s enough.”

FINAL DECISION:  I am in love with these books.  They satisfy my love for mystery and romance.  This book has a mystery that kept me guessing and even gave me a jolt of surprise at the end.  At the same time, I felt a deep connection with Kate as a character.

THE STORY: Police Chief Kate Burkholder is asked to take on a potentially dangerous undercover assignment.  She is to infiltrate an Amish community in New York to see what is going on in the reclusive group because there are hints that children may be at risk including a teenager recently found dead.  Kate’s background growing up Amish makes her the only reasonable option, but this assignment increases tensions with her live in lover.

OPINION:  I have become a big fan of the Kate Burkholder books.  They are a perfect melding of mystery with romance. This book allows Kate to consider her choice to leave her Amish community and explore a what-if life while aggressively pursing the mystery of what is happening in this New York state Amish community.

This case cries out for Kate’s particular talents since she grew up Amish.  There is something strange going on in this small Amish community and police need someone to go undercover.  With a charismatic and intensely conservative bishop, the community has shut itself almost completely from the surrounding community.  Kate is pretty happy in her current situation and so this assignment shakes up her life a bit.

Cut off from all that is familiar to her, Kate ends up emotionally shedding almost all that she believes makes her who she is.  Instead she has to confront everything that she left behind.  Sometimes when we are forced to leave, we don’t want to remember that there are things that we might miss. Thing that might be better even if we are doing the right thing.  Kate is confronted with that reality.  Apart from the complications and personal relationships in Ohio, she sees that there are parts of the Amish community that she misses.

The assignment also tosses a wrench into Kate’s relationship with her lover John Tomasetti.  John’s own past and losses make him overprotective of Kate. What I love about their relationship is that they talk and respect one another.  Despite them being apart, this book shows them growing even closer.

“Tomasetti knows me. He knows how my mind works.  He knows, better than anyone, that I’m driven and flawed.  That sometimes I try too hard and can be a sore loser. He knows that when I sink my teeth into a case, I can’t let it go, sometimes to my own detriment. He understands all those things. And yet he loves me anyways.”

This book ends up being the perfect balance between personal and mystery.  Kate’s journey makes the mystery relevant.  I also was surprised by the ultimate reveal in the story. I always respect a mystery that outwits me and yet makes perfect sense.

My only complaint is that now I have to wait for the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Trust no one.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  AMONG THE WICKED is the eighth book in the Kate Burkholder series.  Each of the books is an independent mystery book, but there are overarching story elements involving Kate’s life.  The book can be read on its own, however.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Seeds of Deception

Review: Seeds of DeceptionSeeds of Deception (Kate Burkholder, #7.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #7.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 74
Goodreads
three-stars

“Zimmerman’s Orchard was the last place fourteen-year-old Katie Burkholder wanted to be, especially with her older brother, Jacob.”

FINAL DECISION: An intriguing little story that gives more background and depth to Kate and her family and friends, this short story gives readers a glimpse into Kate’s life as a young teenager.

THE STORY:  Fourteen year old Amish Kate Burkholder is avoiding her chores with her best friend Mattie. When a barn burns, Kate is torn between the evidence and believing her best friend’s version of events.

OPINION: This short story taking place in Kate’s teenage years gives some interesting insights into Kate and her relationships with her Amish friends and family. Kate is as dogged as an adult and also willing to go for overall justice even if not particularly factual. I liked seeing this glimpse into Kate before her life became more dark and complicated.  I didn’t think this story was needed to understand Kate or those around her and I don’t think I would reach for this as a re-read but I was satisfied with the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story takes place not long before Kate’s rape.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SEEDS OF DECEPTION is book 7.5 of the Kate Burkholder series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars