GONE MISSING by Linda Castillo

Anyone who has been around for a while knows that I am a fan of Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series (I wrote a glowing review of Breaking Silence late in 2011). For those of you who are new, Linda Castillo writes one novel a year, released around May/June. Her protagonist is Chief of Police Kate Burkholder–Kate was raised in the Amish community of Painter’s Mill and chose to leave the “plain life” when she was a teenager. Her departure from the plain life damaged her reputation within the Amish community, but her understanding of their way of life made her an excellent choice for Chief. Unfortunately, despite their desire to remain isolated, trouble and tragedy plague the Amish community and Gone Missing takes us back into the dark underbelly of the community once more.

Amish teenagers are going missing across Ohio and the only thing they have in common is their desire to leave the plain life. Around the age of 16, Amish teenagers enter a period called rumspringa. While the definition of this period of time differs slightly across communities, it is essentially a period of time when Amish youth can experience things outside their normal lifestyle, such as wearing non-traditional clothing, driving motorised vehicles and drinking alcohol . It’s a rite of passage of adolescence where misbehaviour is overlooked to a certain degree and teenagers ultimately choose whether to be baptised into the church or leave the community. Most Amish teenagers opt for baptism, but that doesn’t rule out some serious mayhem and debauchery during rumspringa.

A Linda Castillo novel would not be complete without Agent John Tomasetti and once the connection is made the disappearing teenagers are Amish, John calls Kate  in as a consultant in the hope that her Amish roots will help bridge the gap between the communities and shed some light on the investigation. For the uninitiated, Tomasetti is Kate’s perpetual love interest/achilles’ heel. They developed a more-than-professional relationship in Castillo’s first instalment, Sworn to Silence, and have been navigating the murky waters of colleagues-come-lovers ever since. The case breaks wide open when a young girl, seventeen-year-old Annie King, is reported missing and a pool of blood is located close to where King was last spotted. Up until then, there was no definitive proof that harm had befallen the missing teenagers. With time running out, Kate and Tomasetti go back through the case, with the perennial “there’s something we are missing” train of thought plaguing both agents. When the pieces fall into place, Kate finds herself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with arguably one of the most twisted and shocking killers I’ve come across in a while.

Castillo has demonstrated once again why she is a crime writer with a long and bright future ahead. Although I didn’t find Gone Missing as captivating as some of the previous instalments, I guarantee the ending will chill you to the bone. I dare you to not skip ahead and find out what happens–the last 50-odd pages practically turn themselves.

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