BREAKING SILENCE by Linda Castillo

Anyone else out there who has a favourite author that only writes one novel a year will understand the anguish of buying said new novel: do you read it now? Devour it and relish in it then live a slightly less empty life for 11 months? Or do you keep it safe, tucked away on your shelf, until you absolutely cannot wait any longer? I picked the latter option with Linda’s Castillo’s latest Kate Burkholder novel Breaking Silence; published in late May of this year, I held out till September. Oh boy am I glad I did! With each novel Castillo gets better and better, and this was easily my favourite installment so far.

Chief of Police Kate Burkholder lives in the idyllic Amish community of Painters Mill – returning Kate fans will know that she was raised Amish, and was shunned by her family when she chose to live the Western lifestyle. She walks the fine line between the two communities, doing her best to deal with the complexities of managing two opposing value systems in such close proximity. For the most part, everything runs smoothly. When Kate is called out to farm, she finds a horrible scene – Rachel and Solly Slabaugh, and Solly’s brother Abel, have drowned in the hog pit, leaving four children orphaned. However when the autopsy reveals a pre-mortem head wound, it becomes clear that foul play was involved.

Kate forms a relationship with the children, especially Salome, the Slabaugh’s fifteen year old daughter. In her, Kate can see reflections of herself; trying to cope with the mounting changes within herself, and determining which lifestyle she will choose to lead. When child services suggest that the Slabaugh children will be separated, an emotionally-charged Kate begins to fight for the children to stay together.

As more vicious attacks occur on the Amish community, Kate, with the assistance of recurring character and love interest John Tomasetti, believe the Slabaugh case may have been a hate-crime turned ugly. The mounting evidence grows, and the culprits of the hate crimes are inevitably caught. But when things don’t add up, Kate and her crew are forced to look a little closer to home to find out what really happened to the Slabaugh’s. They start to uncover some bitter family secrets, and the shocking conclusion is both twisted and perverted, and at the same time completely unexpected.

You may be able to tell from my glowing review of S.J. Watson’s Before I go to Sleep that I love it when crime novels are smart – it shows tremendous depth of ability weaving deep psychological issues in to a routine whodunnit. Castillo is quite brilliant at this, as she forces you to think about things most people would normally avoid. A little more gruesome than most novels I read, Castillo is not afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions and she consistently and confidently confronts readers with the sickening and shocking things a human being can do.

It will be a long wait till June 2012 for book four.

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