Blood and Innards

A mystery series set in Amish country and featuring a female lapsed-Amish police chief has a lot going for it. A crime taking place in and around this closed community is automatically charged an air of the forbidden. A woman, in this case Kate Burkholder, who leaves a male-dominated culture only to re-enter it in a position of power presents a fascinating set up too. Add to this a writer, Castillo, who can actually write and you have a recipe for success.

Why only 3 stars?

There are a few significant drawbacks for me. The first is that this is not a mystery; it's a thriller. It's not that it's so terribly obvious, it's that Burkholder has a suspect early on and she's right. Then there is the grotesque nature of the crime. Want to read about the murder of an entire Amish family and the sexual torture of their two daughters? Me neither. Castillo doesn't exploit the material she's just too painstakingly detailed for my taste. Finally there's the incredibly weighty back stories of Burkholder and her love interest - more stomach-churning violence - and the fact that the first book of this series had the two investigating a serial murderer. People have moved for far less provocation but these two are hanging around at the scene of multiple crimes. 

Of course, that's challenge of any mystery series. (Who in their right mind would invite Miss Marple over for tea?) But it's an awful lot for book two. 

Castillo makes a few bold choices -  Burkholder's sections are all told in the present tense, all other characters in the past tense - that would fall apart in the hands of a less talented writer. They aren't all successful but Castillo sets a fast pace for the book so that even missteps aren't very noticeable.

For thriller fans who don't mind or enjoy a gory murder, Pray for Silence is worth checking out.

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