The third novel in this mystery series, “Breaking Silence” by Linda Castillo, is quite possibly the most disturbing book to date.  Police Chief Kate Burkholder is hard at work trying to stop a series of attacks against the Amish while solving a complex murder case.


At first, what happened that cold December morning at the Slabaugh farm appeared to be an accident. The 5:00 a.m. phone call signaled something bad had happened before Chief Kate Burkholder was told of the family nightmare.  Three unconscious adults were down in the manure pit inside the hog barn on the Slabaugh farm.  Since the family is Amish and therefore does not have modern conveniences like electricity and phones, one of the kids had to get help from Bishop Troyer who relayed the emergency situation to the local police. Burkholder and others arrive on scene and pull the others from the manure pit, but they are far too late.  Methane gas is a deadly killer and it just took way too long to get them out alive. Initial investigation appears that one adult slipped in during the cleaning process and the others died during the attempted rescue.


That is until the autopsy finds that Mr. Solomon Slabaugh was struck in the back of the head by a blunt object. The blow cracked his skull leaving a round impression and caused damage of a serious nature. It absolutely could not have happened by a fall to the sloped concrete apron of the manure pit. That and other signs make it clear that he was murdered. How his wife and another family relative wound up in the pit is unknown but at last one murder has occurred.  The only good news out of this family tragedy is there is a brother of the father who can take the kids ranging in ages of 10 to 17 into his home.


The bad news is that Amish is no longer of the Amish faith and was banished several years ago.  This sets up a cultural clash between the local Amish who want to take over caring for the children as is their duty and custom and the children’s estranged Uncle who considers the children family and soley his responsibility. Neither side is going to give in and that means the already hard feelings between both sides are only going to get worse. The children, three boys and a girl have their own issues and Kate feels incredibly drawn to the teenage girl who reminds Kate so much of her own troubled past.


If that isn’t enough, somebody is harassing the local Amish and things are getting worse as the attacks escalate. Reports are stretchy and the Amish certainly don’t want to talk about it and outright refuse to say a word most of the time. But, visible damage to animals, equipment and people tell the tale.  Evidence of fire bombings, mutilated sheep, as well as other attacks brings in agent John Tomasetti from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. He recently requested reassignment to the small state office in Richfield so that he could conceivable see Kate more often as that office handles her area. Their relationship, if they call it that, is still very unsettled and it has to take a backseat to what is happening. Sent in to assist with investigating and stopping the hate crimes, Burkholder and Tomasetti struggle to understand whether or not what happened at the Slabaugh farm is part of the violent hate attacks.


Eventually the twin storylines get solved in this very disturbing tale.  It is impossible to explain why this one is so dark and disturbing without ruining a huge section of the primary storyline.  A primary storyline that once again finds Kate gradually unraveling under the strain of the current cases as well as background events covered in the first two books.


Those events are covered again in this book in detail making it imperative that this series be read in order starting with “Sworn to Silence.” Depending on what the reader is comfortable with or not, readers are warned that this book has disturbing and somewhat graphic descriptions in it that could offend some readers. These books are hard edged, almost noir style in nature, and are occasionally rather graphic. That certainly is the case here.


This good book and series is not a cozy style type read where everything happens offstage.  If you prefer your books dark and complex, your major characters flawed and realistic, and your reads fast paced and suspenseful this one is the one of for you.  Building on a solid foundation, Texas author Linda Castillo has worked her magic yet again in another mighty good book. This one might just be the best in the series.



Breaking Silence

Linda Castillo

Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Publishing Group)

June 2011

ISBN# 978-0-312-37499-0


302 Pages




Material Supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

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