A promising start with a disappointing climax

2011-09-28 00:00

THIS is Linda Castillo’s third detection featuring Chief of Police, Kate Burkholder, and using Castillo’s apparently intimate knowledge of life in a usually peaceful, even idyllic, Amish community. This time, Kate is summoned in the middle of the night to an Amish farmhouse in Painters Mill, and comes upon an appalling tragedy: Rachel and Solly Slabaugh, as well as Solly’s brother Abel, have died in the hog pit, leaving four children orphaned. At first, it looks as if one of the three had accidentally fallen in and drowned, and that the others had died, ­either by drowning or overcome by toxic fumes from the rotting manure, in attempts at rescue. However, a routine autopsy reveals that one of the victims had suffered a head wound before death.

Is foul play possible among people so hard-working, so community­conscious, so governed by the Biblical principles of love and service, modesty and obedience? Could the incident be related to a recent and ongoing series of very nasty hate crimes against the Amish — crimes being investigated by Agent John Tomaselli, an occasional colleague of Kate’s, with whom she has (in addition) a complicated relationship?

Having grown up Amish herself, Kate feels for the orphaned family and develops a special sympathy for the 15-year-old daughter, Salome: she’s determined to identify and bring the killer to justice. But nothing is as it seems, and the horrible secret that emerges turns everything on its head.

The book is hugely promising: Kate is a robust and lively character, and the presentation of the proud, private, ­independent Amish, their language (Pennsylvania Dutch) and their ­lifestyle, is both interesting and ­authentic. Unfortunately, however, ­although the storyline has both pace and suspense, the climax and conclusion somehow don’t fit: the villain of the piece is simply not believable. A ­let-down.

BOOK REVIEW

Breaking Silence

Linda Castillo

Macmillan

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