Among the Wicked (A Kate Burkholder novel) by Linda Castillo (3.5 out of 5)
It kills me that I had to give this fine author less than 4 stars. I have read every book on this series, based around Painters Mill, Ohio, an Amish town. I have loved the Amish since I don’t know when. I almost moved to Lancaster in 1995 with Biceps…. but alas, not to be…. I love to read all things Amish though, because they are a fascinating people. Castillo doesn’t let her readers down. Kate Burkholder, her staff at the PD, and her tormented lover John Tomasetti are solid characters through and through. I would recommend this series to any mystery fan.
This time around, Kate gets a visit from the far outer reaches of the NYPD. There is an Amish settlement there and the troubling death of a 15 year old girl who was found dead in a snowstorm. The town is isolated-to a ridiculous degree- by a megalomaniac bishop who watches over his followers in an almost fanatical fashion. So much that when I read the description of the bishop, I immediately thought of Charlie Manson.. ie, bordering on cult-like status. Given that Kate grew up in an Amish family until she left and was “excommunicated” from the family, she knows the way of the Amish, and the NYPD cops think she is the perfect person to go undercover and figure out what really happened to the girl who died,along with uncovering what is going on in the town that so many have been cast out and disappeared. Kate’s boyfriend is not happy that she agrees, but in she goes. It doesn’t take long before her guise starts to crack and residents begin to shun her, based on the questions. Things get worse when Kate goes to her first service with the bishop and immediately has alarm bells ringing. Shortly after, she is summoned to a private meeting with the bishop, who drugs her and attempts to “help her”. She gets away and alerts the cops, but things go from bad to worse when Kate is attacked and her life hangs in the balance as things get much worse. The ending was a surprise in that it involved one party I didn’t see coming. I liked that Castillo involved a very real problem that we hear about on the news, but I haven’t heard about in many novels. Major applause for tying it in with what was going on, but I had a hard time connecting those dots, and to the Amish, no less. But score major points, regardless, because I was gobsmacked at the end of the book. However, as a reader, I felt like Kate was thrust out into a frozen tundra in upstate New York. And if the one party in the NYPD knew she was intimate with the Amish lifestyle, it made NO fucking sense to want to put her into that case, because it stone cold busted one very guilty party. The answer to what killed 15-year old Rachel is revealed eventually, but something seemed missing even in that. This loyal reader felt like the author had to mix things up and pull their best to solve a crime in another state, but this book made me feel like “There’s no place like home” for Kate and her supporting cast. I missed those characters all too much, and as I said, although loose ends were tied up, something was off here. Some love, but not all the love I normally give to Castillo’s work.