Review: The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel

The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel
The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Very Creepy Crime Thriller in Amish Country

FINAL DECISION: Sad, creepy and filled with secrets. This is a story of how the past doesn’t stay buried and what people will do for revenge. The overlap between the main mystery and John’s story gives this book extra heft and interest.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder. chief of police in a small town, and her team are called to an apparent suicide. A man hanging from the rafters of his barn seems obvious but quickly the investigation turns to murder when it is discovered that the man was shot. His murder seems connected an 35 year old crime — the horrendous murders that decimated most of an Amish family. It seems like a ghost has come back for revenge. At the same time, Kate’s personal life seems to be going well until her lover John gets news that one of the men connected with the death of his family has gone free.

OPINION: This book excels because of the connection between the revenge crime Kate is investigating and John’s own feelings for revenge. This book is all about how the past never really dies. Kate and John are in a good place as this book begins, but the crisis that arises shows that there are still problems that they have with trust. Kate doesn’t trust John not to seek revenge — because he has before — and John cannot truly talk with Kate. There are some very interesting parallels with the investigation (I won’t say more to not give away spoilers). These connections raise this book to a level beyond a standard mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place six months after the previous book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DEAD WILL TELL is the sixth book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although there are some ongoing stories which are secondary to the main mystery.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: Her Last Breath: A Novel

Her Last Breath: A Novel
Her Last Breath: A Novel by Linda Castillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emotional and Deeply Personal Amish Murder Mystery

FINAL DECISION; I loved this book. The book delves deeply into Kate’s emotional world and the personal connection to the murders being investigated bring out all sorts of difficulties for Kate.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police, is called to a horrible accident. An Amish father and two of his children are killed when their buggy is struck by a vehicle. This hit and run accident at first appears tragic but accidental. Soon, however, questions arise and it appears that the “accident” may actually have been murder. Kate is left trying to figure out who would want to murder the husband of her childhood friend.

OPINION: This is a murder that deeply wounds Kate. Because of her personal connection to the victims, Kate’s past is churned up. This is a book all about the churning up of the past. The mystery was really good in this one. It kept me guessing until the end, and honestly I didn’t see the ultimate solution coming. Winding through this mystery are two other personal issues with Kate. Her relationship with John is a prominent part of this story as she needs to decide whether she wants a deeper commitment with him. Also, Kate also finds out that secrets don’t stay buried as the crime that touched her life when she was fourteen is uncovered and she fears that her life will fall apart. I think the best part of these books is the personal connection that makes these books so compelling. This story is too strongly entwined with Kate’s life that it gives great insight into her and also into the case itself. I can find a decent mystery anywhere. It is the extra personal connection that makes this book so compelling.

WORTH MENTIONING: Kate and John’s relationship has a significant turn in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER LAST BREATH is the fifth book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although a dark mystery from Kate’s past returns here. Readers would be better served by reading at least the first book in the series first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: Long Lost

Long Lost
Long Lost by Linda Castillo
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A Short Novella Better for Romance Than Mystery

FINAL DECISION: This was a nice little novella. There was a mystery, but it was a simple one without much drama or thrill. For me, the best part was the relationship between Kate and John and their inability to relax.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder, a police chief and her lover John Tomasetti are taking a well deserved vacation at a bed and breakfast when a 20 year old mystery of a missing woman tempts them away from their relaxation into investigating what happened.

OPINION: Part of my favorite parts of this series is the interactions between Kate and John. Their dark pasts have made their relationship a rocky one. Here, Kate and John have a chance to relax, but their relationship remains tricky for them so they slide into an investigation rather than dealing with their relationship. For me, that was more interesting than the mystery here.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella is very short. In my Kindle version, 25% was a preview for another book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LONG LOST is book 4.5 in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

Review: Gone Missing

Gone Missing
Gone Missing by Linda Castillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scary Heart Pounding Thriller Set in Amish Country

FINAL DECISION: This is one scary book with a ultimate reveal being quite surprising. Having Kate and John be able to spend more time together in a different location helps develop their relationship and shows a different side to Kate.

THE STORY: Something is happening to Amish teens, there have been some mysterious disappearances in Ohio. Kate, with her experience of having been Amish and also being police chief of a town with a significant Amish population is asked to consult on the cases. She will be working with her friend and lover John Tomasetti at his request. When one of the disappearances becomes a murder investigation, Kate fears for a missing teen in her own town.

OPINION: This was a thrilling book. Puzzling and then frightening with a mystery with many layers so that the ultimate solution was not predictable, this book was one that kept me switching between suspects until the end. I really liked that Kate is out of her element here. It allows her to have a different role that doesn’t get bogged down in the practicalities of her normal police work. It also allows her to have a different experience working with John. I am a big fan of the relationship between these two damaged people and I like to see how they are making halting moves towards one another.

The climax of this story was really scary and even though I knew that things would turn out okay (there are more books in the series after all), I still felt the danger that Kate was in.

WORTH MENTIONING: The personal relationship between Kate and John takes a new turn in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GONE MISSING is the fourth book in the Kate Burkholder series. The book is a mystery crime thriller and can read as a standalone. It does, however, contain a continuing personal story about Kate’s reaction to her job and also her relationship with John Tomasetti that continues through the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: Breaking Silence

Breaking Silence
Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thrilling Mystery Basesd in Amish Country

“This was one of those times when justice will make for a very cold bedfellow.”

FINAL DECISION: Emotional, gripping and at times really scary, BREAKING SILENCE is a great addition to a fantastic series. Kate is a strong woman who can be admired even as her world is at times spinning out of control.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder, police chief of a small town has seen the burden of recent cases beginning to wear upon her. She is drinking too much and has almost constant insomnia. A tragic accident on an Amish farm results in several children being orphaned. When what appears to be a horrible but routine accident turns into a murder investigation, Kate’s own past being raised Amish and her natural sympathy for the orphaned children make her determined to find out what happened to this family. A possible connection to a recent string of hate crimes against the Amish bring Kate’s friend and lover John Tomasetti to town.

OPINION: Every book in this series is compelling. The close emotional connection that Kate has to these cases makes the drama more immediate and also tears at Kate as a character. The reason I like these books is because the journey that Kate is on. I can read a standard mystery anywhere. What I like is compelling characters who I can care about. I am enthralled by Kate’s difficulties and her developing relationship with John. The mysteries drive the drama but I like these books because they give me more than a whodunnit. This book has a twisty mystery and more insight into Kate’s psyche.

WORTH MENTIONING: I enjoy how the book moves between Kate’s first person narrative and the third party narrative of other characters. This is true throughout the series, but I think this technique gives Kate’s voice primary emphasis while including the views of other characters.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BREAKING SILENCE is the third book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although there are ongoing relationships and issues concerning Kate that are played out throughout the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

Review: Pray for Silence

Pray for Silence
Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything You Could Want in a Crime Thriller/Mystery

“Some cases are more complicated than others.”

FINAL DECISION: A satisfying mystery combined with continued revelations and painful parallels to Kate’s past and those of her lover John. PRAY FOR SILENCE is a worthy sequel to the first book in this series.

THE STORY: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder straddles two worlds. Having grown up Amish, she understands and respects the people, but she also rejected the life and now lives apart from them. Ten months after the horrific events in SWORN TO SILENCE, things have returned to normal except that Kate has an on again off again lover in John Tomasetti and Kate’s own demons seem closer to the surface. Painters Mill is struck by another horrific event as a whole Amish family is brutally murdered. The Platt family had moved to Painters Mill only a year ago and now an entire family is wiped out. Although the family seemed normal, Kate knows that every family can harbor dark secrets.

OPINION: This is one scary book. There are many twists and turns which make is a great mystery. What makes is a great thriller is how haunted Kate is by her own past and how that intertwines and makes more immediate the murders here. Not only is there a difficult murder mystery to solve but readers also get more revelations about Kate’s own past, her shaky mental stability and the way that the past seems to bleed into Kate’s work. More about John’s own problems are revealed as he has weaned himself from his addiction to prescription drugs but instead suffers debilitating anxiety attacks. I loved how these two closed people warily circle one another wanting and fearing a connection between them. The emphasis in this book is always on the crime but it is always shown through the first person narrative of Kate. The personal connection is what makes these crimes especially relevant and keeps them from being intellectual exercises.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are some graphic depictions of violence involving murder and rape.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PRAY FOR SILENCE is the second book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read independent of the first book in the series, but there are ongoing stories that make this book richer and for that the books should be read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: Sworn to Silence

Sworn to Silence
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Compelling, Thrilling Mystery with a Touch of Romance

“I dream of death.”

FINAL DECISION: A good mystery mixed with a troubled and competent chief of police, secrets that threaten her career and perhaps her life and scary drama. Clear, well written and complex, this story kicks of the series and made me immediately want to read the next book.

THE STORY: Kate Burkholder grew up Amish in simple innocence until she was brutally attacked at the age of 14. The aftermath of her attack led her to rebellion and a crisis of faith and had her leave the Amish. She has now returned to her hometown — no longer Amish but now the Chief of Police. When a serial killer murders a woman in a way that is reminiscent of the Slaughterhouse Killer from sixteen years ago, the town panics that the killer has returned. Kate, however, knows that the Slaugherhouse Killer is dead, but can’t tell anyone else. What she doesn’t know is who is killing women now and why are the killings so similar to those of the Slaughterhouse Killer?

OPINION: I ended up buying this book on a lark because Amazon had it as a Daily Deal at a reduced price. I like tough women who solve mysteries so I decided to try this book out. I am incredibly glad I did because this book was fantastic. I immediately bought the rest of the series and plan on reading them soon.

Having grown up Amish and then rejecting that life, Kate lives with a foot in each of the worlds that collide in the town of Painters Mill, Ohio. A small town with a significant Amish population, she has to navigate the tricky politics and cultures that intersect in the town.

Kate also has dark secrets that have haunted her and her family for years and which have caused a divide that along with her rejection of the Amish life, have left her alone even with her family living in the same town.

For a mystery novel, I ask that the solution not be obvious but also that once the reveal happens that the solution makes sense. This book meets that standard. Readers should also be aware that there are some graphic depictions of the crimes and some graphic violence during the novel. I didn’t think it was overly graphic and it was appropriate for the subject matter and not gratuitous.

There are some quirky secondary characters that bring necessary humor to the story without taking over. Also, readers are introduced to John Tomasetti, who works with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. John is addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol after the murders of his wife and children and is sent to help with the murder investigation under the assumption that he will fail. His own dark past is also an issue here and readers are left to wonder if John will help solve the crime or destroy Kate’s career.

All the questions and problems with Kate and John’s pasts are not resolved in this book — neither is their relationship, but this is the first book in the series and it appears that more will be explored in future novels.

WORTH MENTIONING: After reading this book, I recommended it to my mother. I told her it reminds me of J.D. Robb’s In Death series (without the futuristic elements) and Kay Hooper’s SCU series (without the paranormal elements). So if you like either of those, try this.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SWORN TO SILENCE is the first book in the Kate Burkholder series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.