Sworn to Silence, by Linda Castillo


Author: Linda Castillo
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: 978-1250161635
Genre: Murder-Mystery, Crime


Kate Burkholder has recently been appointed Chief of Police of the Amish community of Painters Mill, Ohio, where she grew up before leaving to study law enforcement in the outside world. Her knowledge of the Amish makes her the perfect candidate. When a serial killer whose spree sixteen years before was dubbed the Slaughterhouse Murders returns, Kate is determined to catch him. But she’s also desperate to keep a secret from her past that will make her task harder.


I finished reading this book late last night having read it in two sessions. I think I would have finished it faster if it wasn’t for a couple of missteps that were irritating and annoying.

The first came about a third of the way in. And, up until that point, I would have given this book a 4-Star rating. But it seems, like many writers in not only this genre, but elsewhere, not content to just tell the story from one POV, they are littering their narrative with first-person and third person omni, as if this makes them look clever. Trust me, it doesn’t.

It’s irritating and annoying, and jerks the reader unnecessarily out of the narrative. Why they feel the need to do this is beyond me. It was downhill from there on in. The pacing suffered, and I felt like I was having to wait to find out what was happening to the main character, Police Chief Kate Burkholder. Who, up until that point, was shaping up to be an intriguing flawed character hiding her own dark secret.

To make things worse, the author then felt the need to up the ante on the overly graphic descriptions of the victims and crime scenes, with an egregious depraved scene featuring the murderer. Not only did it feel unnecessary, it was repulsive—simply meant to shock. Add in the fact that author decided to abruptly give Kate some romance in the guise of a burnt-out cop who’s also hiding his own secret [that of murder] and you start to loose all sympathy for either character.

With so much going for this novel, including a great setting—we’re deep in Ohio Amish country—a Chief of Police who herself had been brought up Amish. Who has survived a terrible ordeal as a 14 year-old. And have her tell her story, was thoroughly immersive and had me sucked in from page one … so why break the up the flow and pacing? Why intersect another character in such an obtrusive manner? Why jerk the reader out of what is, essentially, Kate’s narrative?

I guess without asking the author, I’ll never know. The broken manner of telling Kate’s story fatally wounded this novel, for me, and quite frankly, impeded the impact of what happened to her later. Again, her encounter with the murderer at the end of the novel, just became egregious—told for shock value.

I was left feeling there were so many missed opportunities, emotionally and narratively speaking. Which is a shame, because Castillo’s voice for Burkholder was excellent, the dialogue was clever, snappy and tart in places, and the setting out of the ordinary; and, for the most part, the writing was well above average.

Rating: 5 / 10

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