Friday, January 7, 2011

Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo (Audio)


In a previous life, I was a murder mystery addict. Seriously, that is all I read. And when I locked into a series, I was in it for better or worse. After about ten years of that, I began to get tired of the predictable, formulaic trends I was seeing, and moved onto other pastures. Before I moved on, though, I threw a few of my favorite series into my baggage, and am always on the lookout for new material. Caite recently reviewed Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo, a part of a murder mystery series that takes place in Ohio Amish country. It was enough of a hook to inspire me to try it. Sworn to Silence is the first in the series and luckily found it on audio at my library.


Synopsis: When Kate Burkholder was 14, she experienced a horrifying encounter with a serial killer that left her alive but scarred for life. As a result, she cast aside her Amish heritage and joined the "English" community, became a police officer, and is now the Chief of Police in her hometown of Painter's Mill. In a town where the biggest problem she has is the occasional wayward cow on the road, the community is turned upside down when the body of a naked and slaughtered young woman is found. The body has all the same markings as the serial murder from Kate's past. Could this be the same person?

Although Kate is a smart, competent police officer, she is a woman, and the town's leaders decide to bring in outside help to compensate for Kate's perceived inexperience. Enter BCI agent John Tomasetti, a mysterious, smouldering dude with secrets and baggage of his own. As the killer escalates, the murders get more and more gruesome, and it becomes obvious that Kate may possibly have to sacrifice her career, her family and her long-hidden secrets to save the next victim.

My thoughts: In many ways, I've read this story a thousand times. Everyone has secrets. Attractive, competent woman is instantly repelled by dark, mysterious man. But then they hook up and become a team for the greater good. There are red herrings, and ultimately a really evil antagonist is revealed. A colorful secondary cast of characters. Gratuitous, out-doing the competition gore. Some pretty bad dialogue. I found very little in the story that would be considered a surprise or a plot twist.

But there are also some elements that make this story stand out. The first would be its unique setting of an Amish community. Because the character of Kate lived as an Amish youth, she has insight into their customs, and as a reader, we are treated to a little bit of an education on their way of life. Combine that goodness, that pureness of the Amish people, with a series of incredibly vicious, over-the-top murders? It is a shocking contrast, and one you don't see often in murder mystery literature.

The characters were well-drawn and entertaining as well. Not only is Kate likable, but her staff is as well. Her eager beaver, CSI-wannabe dispatch operator Mona, her semi-retired piss-and-vinegar officer Pickles, and ex-military badass officer Glock all pepper the story with humanity and humor. I wouldn't mind hanging around to see them again.

Are these positives, burdened by an overused plot and trite dialogue, enough to carry a series? Time will tell. I have the second book in the installment, Pray for Silence, on my iPod, waiting to provide an answer.

A word about the audio production: The narrator for Sworn to Silence is Kathleen McInerney, a narrator I've listened to before (Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin) and is experienced in the area of children's literature on audio. I remember enjoying her narration of the Giffin novel, but had small irritations with this one. Her vocal portrayal of the dudeish John Tomasetti was breathy and low, kind of like a lounge lizard, and the ridiculousness of it made me laugh. It instantly turned Tomasetti into a caricature, and it was hard for me to take him seriously. Beyond that however, she did a decent job. I think she would be better suited, however, for women's or children's fiction.

3 out of 5 stars





16 comments:

Beth F said...

Drat. I like books set in my native Ohio (not Amish country). I'm thinking the predictable plot and the not stellar narration would be a turn-off for me. Yeah, I could read it in print, but I like to listen to mysteries.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sure sounds like an interesting premise. I sure am sick of serial killers though! :--)

bermudaonion said...

This must not be too bad if you're ready to listen to the next book in the series.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I try these out as a break from all of my heavy reading, and then I know what I am in for, but Lately I have been finding some really quality mystery and I am glad to be building slowly my cache of go to mystery writers. Curious to see what you think of the next installment since this one seemed to be pretty much par for the course.

Zibilee said...

Though I don't usually read these types of books, the Amish angle has me really curious about this series. Though it does sound as though that might be the only thing about the book that makes it stand out from others of it's kind, I think I wan to try it. I am going to have to pay close attention to your review of the second book.

caite said...

well, seems I liked this one more..a lot more..than you. I don't remember an issue with the dialogue..maybe it sounds worse in an audio format.

Sorry you didn't like it more but I still think it was swell! lol

Nise' said...

Glad I read this one in print as I enjoyed it. I have the next one, Pray for Silence, sitting on my stacks.

The Bumbles said...

The Amish world was quite the trend recently - tons of romance Amish books I saw in that book blogging community genre! When I think Amish mystery I think Witness. And when I think original mystery I think Fargo. Hmmm - if someone wrote a cross between Fargo and Witness maybe I'd be hooked!!!

heidenkind said...

My mom used to only read mysteries, too. Then I convinced her to try a romance. Heh heh.

Melissa M said...

A friend read this and enjoyed it, but to me it sounded like a pretty typical mystery. Since, like you, thats all I used to read, I like them to have a little something extra these days.

Trisha said...

Formulaic plots are a hit or miss with me. For example, I adore Nora Roberts even though the stories are all very, very similar. But other times I get really annoyed with formulaic stories.

Julie P. said...

I think I'd have to be in the right frame of mind for this one.

christa @ mental foodie said...

Like you, 99% of what I used to read was murder/mystery. Now I have expanded my genre... so I have high expectations when I do read this genre... many just became too predictable and formulary...

Iliana said...

I love mystery series but I don't like ones where it's all about the gore. It's not that I am squeamish but I just think that doesn't necessarily show me great writing. I prefer to have good characters who grow as the series progresses.

I don't know about this one for me. the setting sounds interesting but hm, I think I'll wait for your review of the second book to see if you think it's a series you'll continue with!

Kathleen said...

It is nice that the setting is a bit different but it does sound a bit formulaic. That being said, sometimes these well worn formulas can be quite entertaining if read at the right time!

Swapna said...

I really enjoyed both of these books - I hope Pray for Silence works better for you!