January 23, 2010

Sworn to Silence

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
2009 Minotaur Books
Finished on 1/16/09
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community of Painters Mill, Ohio. A young Amish girl, Katie Burkholder, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Murders. In the aftermath of the killings, the town was left with a sense of fragility, a loss of innocence, and for Katie, the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish.

Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate Burkholder is back. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate for Chief of Police. She's certain she's come to terms with her past--until the first body is discovered in a snowy field.

Kate vows to stop the killer before he strikes again. But to name him, she would betray both her family and her Amish past—and expose a dark secret that could destroy her.

Sworn to Silence was my book club's selection for January. My husband read it last summer and said it was very good, so I was excited to finally have a reason to give it a read.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm cut out for thrillers. Like Cody McFadyen, Castillo taps into the psyche of a serial killer and creates brutally intense scenes involving the victims. I'm talking a 10 on the cringe meter! By the time I got to the third murder, I found myself putting the book down well before bedtime, as I had started to have dreams involving the characters. (And it wasn't just me. Other book club members mentioned that they did, too!) I originally felt that the visceral details were a bit gratuitous, but one of the women in my book club said she thought the killer was losing control, resulting in an acceleration of brutality, and that the violence was not at all a contrivance on the part of the author. This is what I love about my book group! It's great to get other readers' insights (and clarification) to the books I read. And, yes, I had to agree with her. It made complete sense once it was pointed out to me.

But knowing that doesn't change my view toward books about serial killers. I can only take so much graphic detail of the crimes. I think the main reason I continue to read Cody McFadyen (and, for that matter, John Sandford) is the incredible development of the main character. With Sandford, it's less about the murder and more about Lucas Davenport and his pals. With McFadyen, it's more about Smokey and her friends and family than the violent killings. That said, I like Kate Burkholder and am curious to see what Castillo has in store for her and her team in this new Amish crime series. And it looks like I won't have a long wait. The next in the series, Pray for Silence, is due out in June. I may have to learn to skim the gory details.

Final thoughts: Beach read! This is one to borrow from the library. I'm not compelled to read it a second time, so no reason to own it.

Oh, and I never figured out who the killer was. As always, I suspected everyone! :) If you're curious to know which actor I envision as the killer, let me know and I'll email you. I'm afraid if I name him here, I'll spoil the mystery for those of you who haven't had a chance to read the book.

See what other bloggers have said about the book:

In general, the plot follows a typical formula for thrillers, but does a great job in setting up the series. I'm thrilled to have found this new-to-me author at the beginning of it. I'm interested in the Amish culture, so the contrast with police encounters is intriguing to me. (Joy of Thoughts of Joy)

This is the first in a planned series and I can say I’m definitely going to be watching for the next book. I liked the character of Kate despite her flaws and issues. The other characters were interesting and it will be interesting to see how they’re developed in the next book. (SuziQ of Whimpulsive)

If you can go way back in your memory to James Patterson's early Alex Cross books, you will understand the pleasure of reading Linda Castillo's debut thriller, Sworn to Silence. The excitement, the fast pace, and the serial killer reminds me of the best of early Patterson. (Lesa of Lesa's Book Critiques)


  1. I checked this one out from the library and started reading, but that first scene was too much for me. It went back unread. I might pick it up at some point again, but the timing just wasn't right. I do like crime novels, but this seemed especially graphic. I've heard others say it was unputdownable and I do like the premise, so I might check it out again on a nice sunny, summer day!

  2. I won this book and I am wanting to read this one for sure!! GReat review on it!

  3. Hi Les! I'm with Rod on this one - I thought it was very good. However, I agree 100% with you that it was extremely brutal and difficult to read in parts. I miss being in a book club for the very reasons you described. We learn so much more when we discuss what we read. Thanks for the tip on when the next in the series is coming out - I was unaware of that. And, thank you for including me in your post. :)

  4. I can actually read something like this, but I could never watch it. I guess I mentally skim the brutal parts or something.

  5. Anonymous12:56 PM

    Great review, Les! Thanks for the book.


  6. Anonymous1:12 PM

    My mystery group is reading this for February. I've just started it. I'm on maybe page 25 or so. Ok so far, but I definitely get into the zone where I can take the serial killers. And then at other times I can't. I'll let you know what I think later.

  7. I used to read these types of books all the time but haven't for quite a while. I'm not sure I want to read all that explicit violence again. Maybe in the future. I think I need to find a book club.

  8. Danielle - I hate to say it, but as rough as that first scene turned out to be, some of the details for subsequent murders are even worse. As long as you're prepared, I think you might be able to handle it. Just remember, it's ok to skim. ;) As far as unputdownability (ok, I made that word up!), I'm not so sure. I never found the book calling out to me, but as I got closer to the finale, I couldn't stop reading. Until it got late. Then I put it down until the next morning. It was one of the few times I ever woke up and started reading in bed. Guess that's saying something.

    Staci - I can't wait to hear what you think!

    Joy - As always, it could've been my mood. Maybe I was distracted with my new workout regime (joined a new gym after the holidays). Trying to fit in work, exercise, house stuff and reading is a challenge, as I'm sure you're learning now that you're back at work.

    I wish you lived nearby. I'd love to have you in my book club!

    Glad you didn't mind the inclusion of your post on my blog. Let me know if you'd rather I check with you first!

    Bermudaonion - I know what you mean. I think I had my eyes covered through 50% of The Silence of the Lambs. Too intense! I really need to learn to skim.

    Jen - And thank you for helping me understand the reasons behind the accelerated violence in this book. Wasn't it a good discussion?

    Kay - I'll be interested to hear what you and your group thinks! Funny how we both wound up reading it for book clubs, eh?

    Framed - My book club is coming up on its two-year anniversary. We've read a lot of good books... and a few duds. I'm planning to blog about the group and books later this month. Or maybe in February. January is almost over. How did that happen??

  9. Sorry, no thank you, dear one. :<)

  10. I'm like BermudaOnion - can read this, but can't watch it in movies or TV.

    I thought the book was good and I liked Kate and the setting. It was definitely gruesome in places, though.

  11. Nan - I knew this wasn't your cuppa! ;)

    SuziQ - It was good and I'll probably read the next in the series.

  12. It's been dreadful trying to balance it all! Today is a snow day, so I'm trying to catch up on comments.


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