Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Review of "Pray For Silence" [81]

Pray for Silence: A Thriller by Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312374983
320 pages, June 22, 2010

"At first he thought maybe a calf was bawling for its cow. Or maybe a dog had been hit by a car. But when the sound came again, he realized it wasn't either of those things. It was a man's scream. Looking out across the cornfield, he felt the hairs on his nape stand straight up."
A horrible, gruesome murder, with an entire Amish family killed, several of them tortured, is very bad for business.

Painters Mill, Ohio is a quiet rural town, with lovely farms, a significant Amish population and an 'English' community that counts on the tourism the the Amish bring.  But Police Chief Kate Burkholder, besides being concerned for the security and welfare of her town, also takes these murders very personally. Having grown up Amish and left in her teen years, she knows many in the community personally.
She is very also well aware personally of what it is like to be a victim of violence.

Why could anyone want to murder an Amish family, people that tend to stay very much to themselves and lead very peaceful lives? Well, it soon become apparent that not all the family members were content to be separate from the larger world. Kate discovers a diary, written by the youngest daughter, that makes it clear that she was involved with an older, non-Amish man, a man who took advantage of the young girl's innocence in a extremely distasteful way. But he was very careful to keep his identity secret. Will they be able to find him and can he, a local man, possibly be the one behind this slaughter? It is also clear that what happened may be part of something much larger, much more involved than Kate first thought, and that the lives of others, Amish and English alike, may be in imminent danger.

Back in the second book in the series, after the excellent Sworn To Silence, is Chief Burkholder, her on-again-off-again boyfriend, State Investigator John Tomasetti, still battling his own demons, and many of the great cast of her little police force. And, of course, we are back in the bucolic Painter's Mill, a lovely place for such a horrible crime. And I warn you, it is a horrible crime. The beginning of the book, that describes the murders, is not for the faint of heart. It is rather strong stuff. But then, I also found much of the rest of the story, as we find out what led up to he murders, very disturbing.
A cozy little mystery this is not. A great story it is.

That may make some reader hesitate, but for me, it was integral to the story. The juxtaposition between horrible acts, degenerate motivations, and the beautiful, peaceful setting, the close, principled Amish community, is at the heart of these two Castillo books. The way the author deals with the Amish, explaining their beliefs and lifestyle yet also presenting them as real, flawed and imperfect,  is fascinating.  Kate is a great character, complex and nuanced, driven and hard drinking...and always deeply involved. Her relationship with Tomasetti...well, it is never simple but always interesting.

Being pretty familiar with the area of Ohio where this story takes place, I love the setting. Rolling hills, dotted with tidy, well cared for farms, those so cute little Amish kids, the picturesque buggies, makes the thought of violent crime all the most shocking. But I must admit, mostly because I have so enjoyed these first two books in the series so much, that I am a little concerned with what that setting holds for the future. A small town like this can only absorb so many crimes before it reaches the point of being unbelievable and I would hate to see that. But Castillo is a fine writer and I trust it is an issue she will deal with in the future. Gee, I sure hope so...

This is a great story, well written and fast paced. I can't say I found the outcome totally shocking but there were certainly enough twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in, and a few surprises to keep it always interesting.
Castillo is, I must admit, one of my favorite mystery writers, and I anxiously await another journey to Painters Mill in the future. I loved the first book and would really recommend that you read it, but it is not necessary in order to enjoy Pray For Silence, and enjoy it I think you will.

My thanks to Library Thing's Early Reviewers for a copy of this book.


  1. I did read Sworn to Silence (audio) last October, so this one is of interest to me as well. Great review

  2. You make a very compelling argument for this series. I am picky about my series, but I'm going to see if they have any of these at my library on audio...

  3. Ha! They had two of them...this one and Sworn to Silence.

  4. Your review and reaction mirrored mine completely. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next in the series. Like you, I'm concerned about the possibility of so much murder in such a small community, but I hope Ms. Castillo gets that figured out. :-)

  5. A really nice review, and helps me to decide will I read the book or not. I am more of a cozy mystery fan, I think I would be classified as one 'faint of heart'.

    However, your review was interesting, and reminded me of a few years ago when a man went into an Amish school and shot and killed quite a few of the children and teachers. I don't remember the details or the outcome of what happened to him, but it was sad just listening to it on the news at the time.

  6. Thanks for the warning about the gruesomeness of the murders. I could read that, but would never be able to watch it and would find listening to it difficult. This sounds like a series I would enjoy.

  7. Looking forward to this one as I so liked Pray for Silence. Great review.

  8. Ohhh, a new-to-me author....not sure whether to thank you or beat you, lol. (Off to find the first book...)

  9. Seems to me that there is little sub-genre of Amish murder mysteries out there. This is at least the third or fourth I've heard of ... and I'm sure there are more. (Just don't ask me what the titles are ... I couldn't remember them to save my life.)

  10. I know there is a little Amish book genre out there, none of which I have or will read. Put a woman in a bonnet on the cover and I ain't picking it up.
    These two books do9 have some Amish characters and I love the intelligent way their beliefs are dealt with, but they are not really Amish heavy.


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