Sworn to Silence is the first novel in Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder mystery series and after finishing the book I immediately ordered the second book in the series, that's how much I liked it. But a warning. The book is graphic with a number of very disturbing scenes. A serial killer is on the loose murdering, raping and torturing young women and we are not spared the gory details.
I realize I may be turning people off at this point but what sold me on the novel were the two main characters: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and Special Agent John Tomasetti who is called in to help Kate and her fellow officers catch this brutal killer. Kate and John have wonderful chemistry together and I'd follow them anywhere.
So, all that said, Sworn to Silence is set in the town of Painters Mill, Ohio where about a third of the population is Amish. Kate Burkholder has been the Chief of Police in Painters Mill for two years, prior to that she was a homocide detective in Columbus, Ohio. Kate is originally from Painters Mill. She was raised in the Amish faith but left as a teenager. After all these years away Kate does not regret coming back to her hometown. She gets along well with her officers. She isn't close with her Amish family though having left the faith when she was a teenager and there is also a dark secret from years ago that she shares with her family which has certainly added to the rift.
Still, things are peaceful in Painters Mill until the dead body of a young woman is discovered. The killer made carvings on the body, the same carvings that appeared on the bodies of four young women who were killed in Painters Mill sixteen years ago. Is the same killer back after a sixteen year hiatus? Everyone in the town is on edge and Kate Burkholder is worried too but for a different reason. Sixteen years ago when Kate was fourteen she was raped and might have been murdered like the other young women but she was able to kill her attacker in self defense. Her father and brother disposed of his body.
But is Daniel Lapp the rapist from years ago back? Was he alive when Kate's father and brother placed his body down into a pit located in the abandoned grain elevator? Was he able to crawl out and is he now back committing these murders? The guilt weighs on Kate since no one in her family ever went to the police about any of this and now this secret could be impeding the case. As another young woman's body is found the Mayor sends for extra help, a Special Agent from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation John Tomasetti. John like Kate has certainly experienced tragedy in his life and he is barely holding it together. Still he's a smart relentless detective and like Kate committed to solving this case so that no other women are killed.
Linda Castillo is a talented writer and you learn about the Amish faith and culture in her novels. For me though, and I say this again, Kate Burkholder and John Tomasetti are the main attraction. They begin an on again off again romance which will continue throughout the series and I am eager to see how that develops. So if you have a strong stomach and are a fan of shows like Criminal Minds and the novels of Patricia Cornwall then I think Sworn To Silence might be for you but it is graphic in terms of the violence and so I recommend the novel with an advisory.