Several weeks ago, I reviewed Linda Castillo's first installment in the Kate Burkholder Amish murder mystery series, Sworn to Silence. For those of you who didn't get around to reading my thoughts, I was lukewarm on the whole experience. Interesting characters, bad dialogue, and a narrator probably not suited for this type of book. But I liked it enough to give the second book in the series a shot. So what was the consensus? I think I'm still in the game. But first, let me fill you in on the plot.
Synopsis: Eight months after the last book, when Chief of Police Kate Burkholder cracked a grisly serial murder case, she is back again with another mess on her hands. An Amish family of seven was brutally murdered, and in the case of the family's two teenage girls, tortured as well. This was a gentle family, and there are no leads or evidence whatsoever.
Until Kate discovers the journal of 15-year-old Mary, one of the murdered daughters. Soon Kate finds herself not only sucked into the dark world of a very scared teenager, but also suffers flashbacks of when she also an Amish girl who was in way over her head and suffered tragically.
Kate also calls in BCI Agent John Tomasetti for help, with whom she had a little fling in the last book. The fling continues, of course, but with serious, complicated undercurrents.
My thoughts: I'm not wholly sure if this plot line was improved from the last novel, or I'm just warming up to the familiarity of the characters, but I found less fault with Pray for Silence. I appreciated the devastating and slow reveal of Mary's life through her journal. I appreciated the ongoing sexual tension between Kate and John. And like the last story, we are allowed to peek inside the lives and customs of the Amish people.
Mind you, the details of the family's murder, including a baby, as well as Mary's "situation", was very graphic and not for the gentle-spirited. While it verged on gratuitous, it also seemed realistic for the circumstances. (I'm being slightly cryptic but I'm trying to be careful not to reveal "stuff").
The quirky supporting characters that I loved in the last book had less of a role in this one. They were only on the periphery, with most of the focus on Kate and John. But it was nice to see the familiar faces darting on and off stage.
Castillo did do her share of lecturing about basic forensic science, and this does get under my skin. I suppose if this is the first murder mystery you've read, you'd appreciate the lesson. But by now, 95% of the population knows that statistics of solving a crime after it has passed the 24 hour mark, and they understand the signs of homicide versus suicide. Every schmoe out there is a forensic expert at this point.
My lingering thought as I finished this installment was "how many serial or mass murderers can there be in a small Amish town, and how long can Castillo keep this up?". I'd say, by the next book or two, Castillo better change her game or we are all going to throw up our hands in disbelief. The setting is fascinating, I admit, but something's gotta give. I think Kate needs to move to Columbus to take up with Tomasetti, but that is just my vote.
A word about the audio production: Like I said in my previous post, the narrator, Kathleen McInerney, is a good narrator for women's fiction, but is not cut out for this genre. Her performance isn't horrible, but her portrayal of men's voices in particular are amateur. Her voice just doesn't exude the seriousness of the subject. I was sorry that she was back again to narrate the second installment, but I won't hold it against the book.
4 out of 5 stars