Friday, May 23, 2014

Linda Castillo Presents The Dead Will Tell - Direct From Amish Country

     Watching the scene apprehensively, Belinda Harrington approaches me. "What's going on? Did someone shoot my Dad?"

I give her a hard look, noticing the boat-size purse at her side, the bulky jacket, and I realize she has plenty of places in which to secret a weapon. I don't think she shot her father or wrapped a rope around his neck and strung him up. But I learned a long time ago that taking things at face value is never a good idea when there's a dead body involved.
"We believe your father may have sustained a gunshot wound shortly before his death," I tell her.
"What? But...oh my God. He was hanging. Who would do such a thing.
Mrs. Harrington, does your father own a handgun?"
"I think so."
"Do you know what kind?"
"It's big and black." She shrugs. "I don't know anything about guns."...
Do you mind if I take a quick look in your purse?"

The Dead Will Tell:
Murder in Amish Country

By Linda Castillo

This is a Kate Burkholder novel. Although it is the second I've read, I know I would love to follow the series that People magazine calls, Gripping... Indeed, that is just what it is... Perhaps because murder in a religious-based community is so much harder to contemplate???

Kate Burkholder is Amish, but had left the community a long time ago. Still she took a job of protecting them and is able to community with them effectively since she knows the language that many only know. We refer to it as Pennsylvania Dutch. It is the present, but the Prologue provides the first needed flashback to March 8, 1979. That was the day that a tragedy occurred within a family and within the community. The only survivor was Billy Hochstetler, who, in trying to help his mother from being taken away, had run after the car.  They had already killed his father and the children were locked into the cellar. During the time that Billy had heard the car and left, the house caught fire and all the children were also gone.
English: This is my own work, Gila Brand. Phot...
Word around town is that Hoch Yoder has suffered with depression and nightmares for years. The shrinks have
 all sorts of official names for it: survivor's guilt;
post-traumatic stress disorder. But
bottom line was that Hoch Yoder  blamed himself, 
and the guilt affected every facet of his life. 
While most Amish men are married
with children by the age of twenty-five, Hoch didn't marry Hannah until just a few years ago, 
when he was already into his forties.

Billy had been taken into an Amish family and ultimately was adopted, changed his name to Yoder and now ran their business...

As much as a tragedy can be forgotten and people able to move on, it had happened... Until...

The first murder...

Yes, the man found hanging from the tree had actually been murdered...and they soon discovered why...
What's the cause of death?" I ask
"Strangulation due to the compression of the carotid
arteries causing global cerebral ischemia."
I follow the doc to a gurney situated beneath a lamp
that's been pulled down close. A green sheet marred
by several watery stains covers the body. I brace an
instant before Doc Coblentz peels away the sheet.
I steel myself against the sight of the massive
Y-incision cut into Dale Michael's torso. The flesh
is blue gray with a sprinkling of silver hair on a
chest that's sunken and bony. A few inches above
his navel, a neat red role the size of my pinkie
stands out in stark contrast against the pasty skin.
"So he was still alive when he was hanged from
those rafters?" I ask.
"Correct. There was a good bit of bleeding from
both gunshot wounds, which tells me the heart
was still beating when he sustained them."

But each of the following murders had the same telling addition to the body...

Amish country near Arthur, Illinois
The shrinks haven't coined a term for the
emotions a cop experiences later, in the hours
after a high-speed chase or physical encounter
or office-involved shooting. Those hours when
the adrenaline ebbs and the intellect kicks
back in. Most everyone gets the full-body
shakes. Some cops get angry. Some laugh or
joke in an almost giddy manner or act in
some otherwise inappropriate way. I've seen
some cops cry--and not just females--even
the tough veterans who think they're immune.

Obviously the remaining son of the referenced family had to be considered a "person of interest" and though Chief Burkholder came to talk with him, and even verified that his father, as a furniture maker, had also created peg dolls when he had time, she left feeling that Hoch had not been involved in taking revenge. His final words to the Chief were "The men responsible for what happened to my family will be judged not by you or me or even by some Englischer court," he tells me. "They will be judged by God and God alone."
I like her response when she quickly claimed, "Not if I have anything to say about it." My kind of woman doing her job!

And she went on doing just that... Interesting, she is involved with a man who also lost his family in tragedy. The case and what was being investigated, remembered, brought a bitter-sweet touch to their relationship and to the overall story line...

English: Amish couple shopping in Aylmer, Onta...

She felt that she should conduct as many of the interviews as possible with the Amish so that she could provide the best communication. But as she got more and more into what had happened back in '79, she found herself "reeling with the bishop's disturbing revelations..."

There was no way to try to prevent any further murders, since they did not have a link between those who were killed... And even when they discovered the piece that proved the present murders were all related, there wasn't a way to identify any others.  It was through research with older Amish who were around during the mid-70s that a potential group had been named. Even with that, however, those "potentially" involved, such as a local minister, refused to accept protection by indicating knowledge of the 1979 family tragedy.

I believe most readers will feel the same... No matter what had been done, I hadn't a clue who was actually doing the killing although readers are almost brought directly into the spider's web...I was surprised with the actual reality! Kudos to Castillo!

This is suspenseful from the beginning to the end, even while the author has provided an excellent thrilling story of murder to track and investigate along with the Sheriff's staff.  I loved it and highly recommend it to lovers of mystery, suspense and chilling suspense!


Linda Castillo lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next thriller set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. Her first novel in the series, Sworn to Silence, was a New York Times bestseller.

Check out my review of First in Series

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