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A Gathering of Secrets

Review

A Gathering of Secrets

Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series has been terrific since its quiet beginning in 2009. However, only recently has it received the commercial attention it has long deserved. The novels are set in the semi-fictitious town of Painters Mill within very real Holmes County, Ohio (about an hour away from where this reviewer lives) and features Kate, who was raised as Amish in the community but is now the town’s police chief. Castillo has slowly but steadily developed and evolved the main and supporting characters in each book, paying equal attention to their respective pasts while utilizing genuine and perplexing mysteries to anchor each story.

That brings us to A GATHERING OF SECRETS, the 10th and latest installment, which is the best of the bunch to date.

"Castillo, who cannot write badly, continues to improve and sharpen her vision with each book, casting her sympathetic and believable protagonist in a variation of the fish-out-of-water setting, which is both familiar and unique."

Please note that the book doesn’t waste any time getting the reader’s attention. The Prologue introduces an instantly likable young woman on the first page and a sense of foreboding that turns into unease and then frank, unadulterated terror, all within four pages. The introductory first chapter, which occurs six months later, gives and then takes away an 18-year-old Amish man named Daniel Gingerich, who is murdered in one of the most excruciating ways one can perish. His violent death within the Amish community would be perplexing in any event, but what is puzzling is that Kate’s initial investigation indicates that Daniel, a hardworking and good-looking young man, was well-liked by everyone and didn’t have an enemy. However, it is obvious from the manner of his passing that someone didn’t like him.

Kate, with some assistance from her department, and John Tomasetti, an agent for the Ohio Department of Criminal Investigation (and Kate’s semi-down-low love interest), slowly follow the evidence. It’s a rocky path, given the reticence of the Amish community to discuss matters with those outside of it. Using her unique status of being from the community but not of it, Kate knows how to delicately navigate her way around custom and culture, and does so with aplomb, applying gentleness and firmness when and where each is called for. Yet even she is shocked by what she discovers. Daniel apparently had some dark secrets of his own that have cast a pall upon particular segments of the community and has resulted in a ripple effect. Kate herself is caught in the aftermath of Daniel’s prior actions and his murder when she is the target of life-threatening attacks.

While those seem to provide Kate with evidence to close the case, there are other factors that lead her to believe that there is even more to his untimely death than there appears to be. This leaves Kate with a dilemma that has the potential to be affected by a violent incident in her own past that continues to haunt her, and has been a quiet but nonetheless present part of the ongoing storyline of the series. The ultimate result is not predictable but is certainly realistic.

Those who haven’t read this series should jump on now. Castillo, who cannot write badly, continues to improve and sharpen her vision with each book, casting her sympathetic and believable protagonist in a variation of the fish-out-of-water setting, which is both familiar and unique. Come for the mystery and stay for the backdrop.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 13, 2018

A Gathering of Secrets
by Linda Castillo

  • Publication Date: July 10, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250121310
  • ISBN-13: 9781250121318