Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is looking forward to a quiet evening at home with her boyfriend, Agent John Tomasetti of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The first snow of the season for Painters Mill, Ohio, is falling so she well knows what the morning will bring. But, for now, she is unusually anxious for her shift to be over so she can go home and relax. Unfortunately, that is not be.
Summoned back to the station she finds Tomasetti as well as Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Bakes of the BCI and Frank Betancourt, senior investigator with the BCI division of the New York State Police waiting for her. Betancourt is the real reason everyone has come to Painters Mill. They need Kate’s help because of her extensive background growing up in the Amish community.
An Amish girl was recently found dead up in St. Lawrence County in New York State. The deceased was just a few miles from her home and died of hypothermia caused by exposure. The fact that Rachel Esh was fifteen at the time of her death, had recently been pregnant, and had traces of OxyContin in her system all raise very disturbing questions. The local Amish already were not being very welcoming to outsiders and had isolated themselves even more than normal. There have been some rumors of “bad things” going on out there in the Amish community, but no specifics. Bishop Schrock seems to have a very tight control over everyone and everything. Isolated for whatever reason, the local Amish absolutely refuse to cooperate in any way with the local police.
With over forty kids in the area, one dead, and another that clearly suffered possible physical abuse, as well as other issues, Betancourt and Bates want Kate Burkholder to go undercover and infiltrate the Amish community. They figure the undercover operation will take a few days to a week or two and she should have some answers. Her ability to speak Pennsylvania Dutch and her other skills having been raised Amish are definite assets to the investigation.
To go undercover far from home means that not only will she have to vanish from her current life in Painters Mill, she will have to revert to Amish way of life as a child and young teen and thereby revisiting some positive as well as painful memories. She also will be at a considerable disadvantage due to the living conditions as well as the fact that any backup will be at distance and quite possibly unavailable. Kate agrees and soon is deep into a case that puts her at her limits in every way possible.
Among The Wicked: A Kate Burkholder Novel is the eighth novel in the series that began with Sworn To Silence and is another good read. Long time readers expecting once again to spend time with the very familiar people of Painter’s Mill could be very disappointed by this read. Often reflective on her past, Kate spends the vast majority of the book undercover in upstate New York far from home. That means the series regulars are not at all present for the vast majority of the book. It may also bother some readers that, considering her own history as well as her background in law enforcement, it takes Kate far too long to realize what is going on is basic cult like behavior.
Despite those issues Among the Wicked is a good read. The power of memory and tradition is a theme throughout the novel as well as tolerance of others in their faith. Those themes are expected in this series and are present once again in this read. The mystery is complicated through certain aspects will be easy to figure out for seasoned mystery readers and those that pay attention to the media beyond political stunts and sound bites.
Among the Wicked: A Kate Burkholder Novel might not be the best in the series to date, but it is still solidly good. With so much background covered in this one regarding Kate’s Amish past, if you have interest in reading the earlier books in the series it would be best to do so before tackling this one.
Among The Wicked: A Kate Burkholder Novel
Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Press)
Hardback (available in eBook and audio formats)
The very special Lesa Holstine graciously sent me her ARC copy so I could read and review the book. Make sure you check out Lesa’s review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2016