Review: The Pact

Review: The PactThe Pact (Kate Burkholder #11.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #11.5
Published by Minotaur Books on April 28, 2020
Genres: Mystery

FINAL DECISION: I always enjoy these short interludes in the Kate Burkholder series. The story doesn’t have the depth or carefully plotted mystery involved in the main books, but the story doesn’t claim to be anything more than a taste of the series.

THE STORY: Two boys, one English and one Amish, disappear and Police Chief Kate Burkholder has to find them. For a short story, it manages to pack in a lot about the cross-cultural biases between the two groups and two boys who just want to be friends. There is some danger and mystery involved, but it is minor.

OPINION: The highlight of this story is the relationship between the two missing boys and their deep friendship in defiance of their parents’ wishes. The story has some adventures for the boys, but the story is really focused on the heartwarming nature of the boys’ friendship and bond rather than death and mystery as is true in the main books. I liked seeing the recurring characters solve something that is more “normal.” I also liked that we got to see Kate and John together working on a case. I miss the books where their interaction was a big part of the story. This shorter story gives a chance to see them in action again.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a short story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE PACT is book 11.5 in the Kate Burkholder series. These short mystery stories are between the novels and are focused on a quick read.

STAR RATING: I give this 3.5 stars.



Review: Outsider

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: OutsiderOutsider (Kate Burkholder #12) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #12
Published by Minotaur Books on July 7, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery


FINAL DECISION: The story is good, but the mystery wasn’t as engaging as others in the series. I love reading about Kate, but this one is my least favorite of the series.

THE STORY: Kate’s past arrives in the form of Gina Colorosa, the woman with whom Kate joined the police force. Gina arrives having been shot and on the run. Holed up at an Amish farm, Kate has to find out the truth while confronting the possibility that Gina might be a criminal herself.

OPINION: Things I liked about this book: we got to see quite a bit of John working with Kate; the stories where we learn more about Kate’s past are always better; I liked the Amish family involved in this story, and Kate was pretty savvy during the story.

Things I didn’t like as much: I didn’t really like Gina much and so I didn’t care as much what happened with her story; with the claustrophobic atmosphere of the book there were large parts where little action occurred; some of the turns in the book were not explained.

I enjoyed the story but felt that overall it is the weakest of the series. The mystery/suspense story didn’t work as well. However, I really did love seeing Kate and John working together/

WORTH  MENTIONING: This story takes place in a very confirmed area with only a few prominent characters which is very different from the usual way this series works.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OUTSIDER is the twelfth book in the Kate Burkholder series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and can be read without any other book. There are continuing personal storylines, however. Reading the books in order gives the best experience.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review and all opinions contained herein are my own.



Review: Shamed

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: ShamedShamed (Kate Burkholder, #11) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #11
Published by Minotaur Books on July 16, 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304


“You see a lot of things when you’re the chief of police in a small town.”

FINAL DECISION: Loved this one. Pulse pounding exciting mystery/suspense with plenty of Kate and John together. Plus, this one once again gives more complexity to the Amish.

THE STORY: An Amish grandmother is murdered and her young granddaughter is kidnapped. Chief Kate Burkholder is in a race against time to find the girl. The investigation leads Kate to uncomfortable information about the Amish that challenges what she thought she knew about them. She discovers that there are a lot of secrets to be uncovered.

OPINION: I loved this book. I was drawn into the story from the first page and the pacing of the book kept me breathless throughout. This was a fast paced and dramatic book until the very end.

I’m a big fan of this series especially because Kate is such an independent and competent character. She makes mistakes and she thinks too much, but everything she does comes from deep caring. Kate’s emotional connection to cases is always both problematic but also part of her great strength as an investigator. As always, Kate’s connection to the Amish give her an entry to the important people in the investigation, but often the reality conflicts with Kate’s faith in the Amish.

Here, there are serious secrets at work and Kate has to discover the truth in order to save the girl and find the killer.

There was a lot happening in this book which made it a read that I couldn’t put down. Every time I finished a chapter, instead of being able to put the book down, I wanted to know what happened next. I ended up reading the book in one large gulp.

I also really enjoyed that Kate’s love interest John is involved in the case rather than just being on the sideline. Kate and John work so well together that I love them having more “screen time” together. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get more followup from the prior book, but I always enjoy seeing how their relationship is developing.

Fans of the series will find all the elements that make this series worth reading. New readers will also get an exciting read as this book can be a gateway to the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The format of this book add to the tension of the story. The construction is a bit different than others in the series but it works well here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHAMED is the eleventh book in the Kate Burkholder series. This book has a self-contained mystery and thus can be read as a standalone. There are ongoing character developments that will have less impact if the series is not read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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



Review: In Plain Sight

Review: In Plain SightIn Plain Sight (Kate Burkholder, #10.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #10.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 28, 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 60

FINAL DECISION: A small mystery about a teenage Amish boy who is struck by a car and questions that arise when it looks like it might not have been an accident. This is a small mystery benefiting its length, but I liked it as we get to see all the best parts of the characters in the series.

THE STORY: When a teenage Amish boy is found seriously injured by the side of the road, it initially appears to be an accident. But Chief Kate Burkholder soon finds out that not everyone in town was happy that the Amish boy was dating an English girl.

OPINION: This is a pretty straightforward story, but has some of the hallmark issues raised in the series: the conflict between the Amish and the others in town, emotional and sex relationships, Kate being a strong person who does her job in a kickass fashion, the relationships she has with her staff and John. This short story (it’s too short for me to even consider it a novella) gives a nice taste of what is involved in the series. I thought the plot was well executed.

WORTH MENTIONING: Only small glimpses of Kate and John in this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IN PLAIN SIGHT is book 11.5 in the Kate Burkholder series. This short story can be read as a standalone and gives some idea of the stakes in the main books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Her Last Breath

Review: Her Last BreathHer Last Breath (Kate Burkholder, #5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #5
Published by Minotaur Books on June 18, 2013
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 320

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

Review: Long LostLong Lost (Kate Burkholder, #4.5) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #4.5
Published by Minotaur Books on May 7, 2013
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 58

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

Review: Gone MissingGone Missing (Kate Burkholder, #4) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #4
Published by Minotaur Books on June 19, 2012
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 276

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

Review: Breaking SilenceBreaking Silence (Kate Burkholder, #3) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #3
Published by Minotaur Books on March 27, 2012
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 308

Thrilling Mystery Based 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

Review: Pray for SilencePray for Silence (Kate Burkholder, #2) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #2
Published by Minotaur Books on June 22, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery

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

Review: Sworn to SilenceSworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1) by Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #1
Published by Minotaur Books on May 25, 2010
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 368

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.