Monday, May 11, 2009

Sworn to Silence - Outstanding First Novel by Linda Castillo!

Sworn to Silence
By Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9780312374976
352 Pages

I just spent a wonderful weekend with Linda Castillo, author of Sworn to Silence! The book is scheduled to be out in June--pre-order this exciting, edgy thriller if you can! I loved it!

Sworn to Silence is the first book in a new series introducing Kate Burkholder, Police Chief of Painters Mill. Kate grew up as an Amish girl, but when she was just 14, her family was torn apart by terror. As is usual for Amish families, they handled everything within the family, and all family members were to keep that secret.

But now, as police chief, Kate faces her first murder as Chief and all of her memories, fears and anger from her past are brought back to her. She can’t even turn to her brother or sister for support because when Kate chose not to become a member of the Amish church, she was immediately placed under a “bann.” Her choice to follow English ways and language had separated them for many years, now one of them even betrays her and the family secret!

All of Kate’s staff totally support her and begin working around the clock to gather evidence regarding the murder. But Kate has political enemies in the town council and a local sheriff who would like to take over the case. The only good thing that comes out of this is that when the council calls for assistance from the State, the BCI takes the opportunity to send a rogue special agent, John Tomasetti, who they’ve been trying to get to take early retirement. He was once a great agent and it would be hard to fire him; however, tragedy had taken his entire family from him and he’d turned to alcohol and prescription drugs. Now he’d either have to take the assignment...or else...

So when he came to Painters Mill, he had mixed feelings—he really didn’t care about the case in many ways, but he knew that this was probably his last chance, if he didn’t want to be forced to retire. Fortunately, he was quite willing to allow Chief Burkholder to remain in charge and soon was impressed by her capabilities. With territorial concerns uppermost, Kate soon grudgingly admitted that John could and was helping her and she was grateful, especially when more women were found who had been tortured and killed.

The interface of the Amish and town community is an interesting and unique setting that adds greatly to the novel’s tension. When the second girl discovered is determined to be “plain,” Kate works effectively with the family, calling on her knowledge of their language and customs as they deal with their loss. One memorable scene is when she attempts to drive the parents to the morgue and they refuse, so she follows them in their buggy for hours, as they go to see and identify their daughter.

Castillo keeps a fairly fast pace throughout the entire book, but as the book moves toward ending, what happens is breathtaking—by then readers totally identify with Kate and live through the intensity of what she is facing, as if she’s right in front of you, fighting for her life! Sworn to Silence is an outstanding first novel and the beginning of a must-read series by Linda Castillo! And, yes, there’s a budding romance brewing between Kate and John! Once you meet these two, you know they are going to be two individuals you’ll want to meet again!

G. A. Bixler

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