Review: A Gathering of Secrets

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

Review: A Gathering of SecretsA Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder, #10) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10
Published by Minotaur Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 308
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

“Some people say murder is a senseless act. I don’t agree. There’s no doubt murder is a brutal act. It’s a cruel act. An immoral act. It’s wrong in the eyes of the law. A sin in the eyes of God. Murder is an unthinkable deed in the mind of any decent human being. But murder is rarely senseless.”

FINAL DECISION: A great mystery that is deeply grounded in character and relationships rather than forensics and clues. Kate is deeply involved emotionally in this one and I really like seeing how her character has grown in the series. This one has lots of twists and turns and I couldn’t put it down.

THE STORY: The burning of an Amish barn brings Chief of Police Kate Burkholder to the scene, but the arson case turns to a murder investigation when the body of an eighteen year old boy is found inside. As Kate tries to determine who would want to kill a young man who by all accounts was a hard worker and a good person, Kate begins to discover that there are secrets that no one wants to talk about which might be a motive for murder.

OPINION: This one was a page turner. The book has lots of twists and things are not what they appear. This book is deeply entrenched in the personal. The secrets that people keep and the fears and shame and guilt that surround those secrets. As the story winds its way through to its conclusion, I liked that the sense of right and wrong is challenged on all sides. People who seem sympathetic might not be. People who seem good make terrible choices and take terrible actions.

These books work best for me when Kate is deeply involved not only on a professional, but also a personal level and this book succeeds in that. Kate is fully engaged as the mystery brings out many parts of her life. The story feels personal even if Kate doesn’t know the people involved.

I thought the mystery was very good and while I had glimpses of the ultimate resolution, I really didn’t put it together until the end. And there were plenty of shocking surprises along the way to keep me glued to the pages.

Beyond the mystery, there were also several developments with the ongoing characters that I enjoyed. And there is a real sense of growth of these characters which I appreciated. For readers of the series, it is nice to see that events and time change these characters and they are not kept in stasis to just solve crimes.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has some good moments between Kate and Tomasetti for those who are interested in their relationship.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A GATHERING OF SECRETS is the tenth book in the Kate Burkholder series. This is a series of separate mystery stories. There are overarching character developments, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

 

four-half-stars

Review: In Dark Company

Review: In Dark CompanyIn Dark Company (Kate Burkholder #9.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #9.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 29, 2018
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 60
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A little mystery that is centered in the characters. I always enjoy seeing Kate doing her work. Wish there was a little more Tomasetti.

THE STORY: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is awoken with a call about a woman who has run out of the night fleeing a mysterious man. The woman claims to have amnesia but knows that someone is trying to kill her. Kate has to find out who the woman is and discover if she is the victim or a criminal herself.

OPINION: I enjoyed this story but I missed the interaction between Kate and Tomasetti. While I appreciate that she is the main character and I expect in the large books that she will be acting as Chief of Police and an independent woman, I’ve liked the short stories the best when we get to see the two of them working together.

The story was a well crafted mystery with a definite and clear arc in the story. The characters were well designed for such a short story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story that focuses on a mystery with no romance involved.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN DARK COMPANY is book 9.5 in the Kate Burkholder series.  This is a standalone mystery can be read without knowledge of any of the other books.

STAR RATING: I give this story 4 stars.

four-stars

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 order to prepare 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

Review: After the Storm

After the Storm
After the Storm by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This One Was Just Too Sad for Me

FINAL DECISION: This story was good. There was an old mystery and personal problems with Kate and John, but this one ended just too sad for me. The stories are getting too predictable in that there is never any positive resolution. It’s beginning to feel like Shakespearean tragedy.

THE STORY: A tornado comes to Painters Mill and brings destruction but also uncovers old secrets. When a set of human bones are discovered in the wreckage, a murder that occurred decades before comes to light. Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police, stirs up old mysteries. Also, just when things seem to be going well for Kate and her live in lover John Tomasetti, a new problem brings fractures in their relationship to light.

OPINION: There is so much sadness in this story. The mystery itself has a sad story. The investigation uncovers so many other sad stories. The result of the tornado is sad. And then there is Kate and John’s relationship which has a sad turn but which seems like there will be some happiness in this story — but then that also ends in a sad manner. All this might work well if this was one story among many, but honestly, just about every one of these books are so sad. It seems like there is no bright spot in these stories. This was one book where I hoped that someone would have a happy ending — alas, it was not meant to be.

All that being said, the story was good and had great pacing. Once starting this book, I couldn’t stop until I had finished it. Exciting with many stories intertwining. Just too sad for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: These books always end up too sad and unhappy at the end. I keep wishing for something good to happen once in a while.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AFTER THE STORM is the seventh book in the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone although the relationships and characters grow and develop throughout the series.

STAR RATING: I give this one 4.25 stars.

Review: A Hidden Secret

A Hidden Secret
A Hidden Secret by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Small Mystery But Chance to See Kate and John’s Relationship

FINAL DECISION: A sad solution to a small mystery but with an optimistic ending. I liked this book more for the development of Kate’s character and the chance to know how her relationship with John is evolving.

THE STORY: Someone has abandoned a newborn baby and Kate Burkholder comes to investigate. The infant was left with some items which lead Kate to believe that the mother might be Amish. With the help of her lover John Tomasetti, Kate must determine what would lead a woman to abandon her child.

OPINION: One thing I liked about this story was that there was really a happy ending — especially for this series. The mystery here is small and it solution is pretty obvious because of the short nature of the story but the story works out well. This novella gives Kate and John a chance to have further development in their relationship. It is clear that Kate is serious about John and their relationship might be taking a new direction.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella gives a good sense of the structure of the novels in this series although the mystery is less grim. In fact, this may be one of the happiest endings ever.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A HIDDEN SECRET is book 6.5 of the Kate Burkholder series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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.