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Average: 3 (1 vote)

2labz's picture
Written on Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Pros: fairly good plot twists, less romantic than others in the series, not an idiot plot
Cons: burkholder's a little too noirish, logical problems with jurisdiction

In Breaking Silence, Linda Castillo’s third Amish country mystery, Kate Burkholder investigates what at first seems to be an Amish hate crime that tuned deadly. Three of the Slabaughs are dead in a manure pit, suffocated by the gases created by the pig poop. Mother, father and uncle leave four orphaned kids ranging from 9 to 17. Though childless, Chief Burkholder’s heart breaks at the sight of the children weeping for Mom and Dad. She’s especially taken with the only girl, fifteen-year-old Salome, perhaps because she could be Burkholder herself at that age – when she was herself an Amish girl.

Not until a pathologist detects blunt-force trauma on a victim does anyone suspect foul play; but that’s what it was. The suddenly important case involves not just Burkholder’s entire department, but also agent John Thomasetti of Ohio’s BCI. Burkholder’s pleased with Thomasetti's presence, because he’s not just a great investigator he’s also great in the sack. The main question, though, remains: who’d kill Amish farmers, pacifists who keep to themselves? You’ll never guess...

Like the previous installments in the series (Sworn to Silence, Pray for Silence), Breaking Silence is set among the “Plain Folk” of central Ohio. Repeat characters include Burkholder’s staff in the police department and locals like Amish honcho Bishop Troyer; mostly stock characters painted with a rather broad brush. Painter’s Mill, where Burkholder is chief of police (it's also her home town) seems to comprise only the police station and one bar, otherwise all the action occurs on country roads and Amish farms. Castillo never explains why the town police chief investigates murders out in the country when that’s the jurisdiction of the county sheriff.

Castillo avoids invoking standard serial-killer themes for this installment, unlike Sworn to Silence, the first book of the series; but she gleefully pours on plenty of the ripped-from-the-headlines stuff (hate crimes against Amish). Once the action gets going, the red-herring suspects quickly drop off Burkholder’s radar, leaving just one likely villain (a somewhat obvious choice beginning around page 70). But wait: that’s misdirection, too! Hooray!

As mysteries go, Breaking Silence is fairly good: it’s marginally better than the first book in the Burkholder series, though not enough better to merit a fourth star. Castillo needs to resist the urge to go all "noir" on her readers, and stop writing about Burkholder chugging boilermakers in local bar and thinking dark thoughts. That's becoming a little much…

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2labz recommends Breaking Silence. Linda Castillo

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Category: Books
Author: Linda Castillo
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