Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Kate Burkholder Series: Sworn to Silence, Pray for Silence, Breaking Silence

The story of how I originally became acquainted with this Amish mystery thriller series is that I watched a Lifetime movie called An Amish Murder a couple of years ago.

I enjoyed it more than I typically enjoy Lifetime movies. I'm usually more of a Hallmark Channel girl if I want fluff, but while watching this I discovered that I have a thing for Amish mysteries so I looked up some books with Amish mystery themes. Now I did not find this series right off the bat. I found another series first which I will post about at another time, and I thought it sounded similar to this movie. It wasn't until after I was reading that series that I discovered the Kate Burkholder books and was pleasantly surprised that I recognized that name. It turns out that Lifetime movie was based on the first book in this series. After reading the first three books in the series I feel like the actors that were chosen to play the roles in the TV movie were spot on. I especially liked the choices of Neve Campbell as Kate and Noam Jenkins as John Tomasetti, although it can be hard to tell if I'm just biased because I saw the movie first and actually like it better than the books. Here are my reviews of the first three books in the series...

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder, #1)Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Content: Strong Language, Implied Sex

A killer is preying on sacred ground....

In the sleepy rural town of Painters Mill, Ohio, the Amish and “English” residents have lived side by side for two centuries. But sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community. In the aftermath of the violence, the town was left with a sense of fragility, a loss of innocence. Kate Burkholder, a young Amish girl, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Killer but came away from its brutality with the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish. 

I decided to read Sworn to Silence because I saw the TV movie that was based on it. Comparing the two I found the book to be much darker than the movie. While viewing the movie I could curl up on the sofa with a blanket and hot chocolate and enjoy. It wasn't a cozy mystery, not even close, but still it was relatively mild. The book is not that kind of book. There is a lot of detail written about the crime scenes and what happened to the victims in the book. Let's just say, it isn't pretty, and it certainly doesn't make you want to curl up with a hot chocolate.

I've said before that I love Amish mysteries, and for the most part I enjoyed this one. The language was a bit harsh for my liking (the C word was used a couple of times) and more frequent than I prefer in the books that I'm reading, but the story was very compelling even though I had already seen the movie and knew who the serial killer was. There were a couple of things that I thought a little implausible; like Tomasetti not buying Kate's story about who she thinks the killer is after she explains to him all the circumstantial evidence she has. I think he should have believed her right away. There were way too many coincidences there for that person not to be the killer. 

I liked this book enough to want to read more in the series. There are some similarities in this series and the other Amish mystery series I've been reading, Serenity's Plain Secrets. This series is darker and more gritty than that one. I do believe I like Kate a little better than Serenity just because Kate seems more mature and she doesn't have the trust issues. But this series is not an easy read when it comes to the murders and the dark pasts of some of the characters. John Tomasetti in particular was hard to like in the beginning. And Kate blames herself too much for things that happened in her past that quite frankly were out of her control. Those issues aside I am interested in reading more.

Pray for Silence (Kate Burkholder, #2)Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Content: Strong Language, Implied Sex

The Plank family moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to join the small Amish community of Painters Mill less than a year ago and seemed the model of the Plain Life—until on a cold October night, the entire family of seven was found slaughtered on their farm.

Pray for Silence is the second book in the Kate Burkholder series. I did not enjoy it as much as the first, for a few reasons.

Reason one being that I do not care for some of the tactics Kate and Tomasetti use in dealing with suspects. I know they are supposed to be flawed with personal demons, but it doesn't endear them to me.

Reason two is that Tomasetti annoys me with his attitude towards his superiors. Sure he's flawed and he went through some terrible things that left him in a psych ward for a while, but he chose to self-medicate through prescription drugs and alcohol and his utter refusal to face the consequences of his actions like he should annoy me. In book one I could understand his attitude a little more because he was still abusing drugs and alcohol and trying to hide it. Also his superiors didn't come off as particularly caring about his situation, but in this case the consequences were minor compared to what they could have been and it seemed like they took into consideration all that he had done in the previous case. I just thought he should have been happy that all he was getting was put on leave for a while.

Reason three is that there were some things I thought should have been done during the investigation that were never considered, like going around to area nightclubs with the victims photo and asking questions. Putting someone in the park to observe and see if the perpetrator was still hanging around there taking photos. Looking for the necklace the victim mentions in her diary. It could have had fingerprints on it, but it's never even thought of.

The mystery aspect of this book was good and it kept me guessing about who was involved for a while, but the motivation was easy to figure out. I did feel like there were some similarities to the first book. I'm still mildly interested in this series and I will probably eventually read the next book.

Breaking Silence (Kate Burkholder, #3)Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Content: Strong Language, Implied Sex

The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death—clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs’ children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish? 

Breaking Silence is the third book in the Kate Burkholder series. I did not like it as much as the previous installments, and to be honest, I don't think Kate Burkholder has any business being the Chief of Police. Kate's issues over her past are getting a little old at this point. She is drinking a lot and even driving while drunk now, which is unacceptable for anyone, but as Chief of Police it especially crosses a line. She is supposed to be an example of upholding the law for goodness sake! She might be a fictional character, but this actually made me really angry, especially because I know someone who was hit and severely injured by an off duty cop who was driving while drunk. I don't care if Tomasetti followed her home, she shouldn't have been behind the wheel. I have a hard time sympathizing with her after this.

Tomasetti on the other hand grew on me. He seems to have made huge strides in overcoming his demons and is now trying to help Kate who seems to be spiraling downward. There was some movement forward in the relationship between Kate and Tomasetti also, which I liked.

Other issues I had with the book were:

-The Amish kids were treated and described a lot younger than they were. The 10 and 12 year old seemed as though they were 3 and 6.

-Inaccurate behavior for an Amish kid.

-Some of the red herrings really didn't make sense. Especially one of them, it was like the author had the idea to include it to throw us off, but couldn't come up with a good reason for it to have happened.

- Kate and Tomasetti once again angered me with the way they treat suspects. They really didn't have to arrest that poor guy right in front of his kids. They could have stepped out onto the porch with him first.

For some reason I'm still interested in this series. I really can't figure out why since I now dislike the main character quite a bit. Maybe it's because I want to see her overcome her demons and get to a better place. I don't know, but I will probably stick with the series a little longer.

View all my reviews

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