Saturday, July 25, 2015

Amish Country Mystery, AFTER THE STORM, Linda Castillo

AFTER THE STORM is the seventh investigation featuring Kate Burkholder, chief of police in the part-Amish community of Painters Mill. Linda Castillo's writing is so strong, her books so compelling, that I was startled last month to discover that many people don't yet know the series.

I posted a review of the third one (click here) a few  years ago; at this point in the series, Kate is secure in her job and cautiously enjoying a steady (if somewhat undefined) romantic and very loving relationship with State Agent John Tomasetti. Castillo has led Kate through the frictions and losses of her own Amish past, her departure from her culture and family (although she still has some connections, which become important here), and her choices in how to police a community where many people think they "know her" -- and don't.

Into this settled situation comes chaos: in the form of a tornado, a personal issue that threatens what Kate and Tomasetti have been building, and the discovery of a body ... an Mennonite death with Amish connections that will take Kate back onto challenging turf with various segments of the community.
I squat beside [the coroner]. "Doc, it looks like pieces of a garbage bag."

He tosses me a knowing look. "That doesn't bode well for whatever happened to this individual."

Uneasy questions pry into my brain. Did this person suffer some kind of fall and die? Was he crawling around under the old barn and got stuck? Was he working down here and suffered a heart attack? Or did someone murder him, place his body in a garbage bag, and dump it?

I think about the scarcity of bones, and something dark nudges my brain.
Castillo's writing is rich with imagery and character, along with affection. Losses in Kate Burkholder's life and community come with full emotional depth; gains are hard-earned and worthwhile. In other words, once again, Castillo provides a deeply satisfying book, framed in well-turned mystery traditions and made meaningful by the power of the lives revealed.

You don't need to read the others first -- and in fact, Castillo's books are so strong and vivid that I'd recommend NOT reading one after another. Space them out, if you haven't yet tried them. And let me know what you think of this latest. I'd say it's a keeper.

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