I’ve been in desperate need of a new audiobook series to get me through my long, boring morning commute. After a few false starts – why is it so difficult to get some books on audio? – I finally found a winner.
Sworn to Silence is Castillo’s first mystery in her Kate Burkholder series, featuring an ex-Amish woman who is the Chief of Police in her hometown of Painter’s Mill.
Kate Burkholder may have grown up Amish but she’s been out of that life since she turned eighteen and she’s no stranger to violence. At fourteen, Kate was raped and subsequently killed her attacker. Because Kate’s rape and her crime of murder was considered an Amish matter, the body was hidden and Kate has never revealed what happened all those years ago. At the time of Kate’s attack there was a serial murderer hunting in the surrounding area and Kate has always thought that by killing her attacker, she stopped the murderer from hurting more women. Now sixteen years late it seems that the serial killer is back. Is the man that she thought she killed still alive? And if he is, is Kate going to have to reveal her past actions? While the mystery is suspenseful and well-executed, what really stands out is the introduction of Kate. I will admit that it is the fact that Kate is an formerly Amish woman and also Chief of Police that caught my eye. This was a great way to hook readers. What’s even better is that Castillo does an excellent job in showing how Kate’s upbringing has informed her present. Kate is always respectful of the Amish community and displays an inherent understanding of their way of life, even when others would not. As someone that’s not Amish, it was, at times, really difficult to understand and even sympathize with a patriarchal and insular community. In particular, there is a moment when Kate speaks frankly with her brother about her rape and the cover up of the murder of her attacker, and her brother’s response was infuriating. While Kate is angry at her brother’s response, she displays an empathy and respect for the Amish way of life despite the fact that she does not always agree with the tenets she was brought up with. Kate’s respect for her roots was a fascinating aspect of her character and the author handles the tension between the Amish way of life and contemporary issues very well.
The mystery element to this story was very graphic. There’s a serial rapist hunting women in the community and the author does not shy away from the details. The crime scenes are descriptive and disturbing, perhaps even more so because of the fact that I listened to this. The descriptive nature of Sworn to Silence will likely bother some, but I think those who enjoy character-driven mystery series will very much appreciate this one from Castillo. The mystery is at the heart of Sworn to Silence but it is the character’s reactions to the crimes that provided the real meat to the story.
For those that want to be invested in a series, there’s also a lot fodder for future installments, most notably with regards to Kate’s budding relationship with state cop, John Tomasetti. While the relationship hops from bare acquaintances to something more quite quickly, it’s nowhere near resolved in Sworn to Silence. Tomasetti has his own tragic past; his wife and two daughters were murdered because of his job. He’s popping a lot of pills, drinking way too much, and is basically sent by his bosses to investigate the serial murderer in Painter’s Mill so that they can justify firing him. John’s not exactly a catch in Sworn to Silence, but Kate is drawn to him. It’s not at all clear whether Kate and John can actually have a stable relationship, and readers are just treated to the possibility of one in book one.
Ultimately, Sworn to Silence was a great audiobook to break my listening slump. The narrator was appealing and created a fantastic sense of suspense when appropriate. This is a mystery series that I think I’ll be sticking with – on to book two, Pray for Silence.
If you’re not in the mood for the time investment required for a series, try Tami Hoag’s Still Waters. This suspenseful read is fast-paced, has a similar Amish connection, and a bit of romance. I really loved this one back in my romantic suspense phase.
While S.J. Bolton’s Lacey Flint series is set in London, England, I think it’s a series that will also appeal to fans of Kate. Like Kate, Lacey is a policewoman with a secret, heartbreaking past. Be warned, like Sworn to Silence, the Lacey Flint series is also very graphic and violence, but like Kate, Lacey is a very compelling character. Start with book one, Now You See Me.