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