This is the third of Linda Castillo's series about Police Chief Kate Burkholder and life in Painter's Mill, a small town with a substantial Amish population. Each of the books brings us a thriller story with a twisted family backstory. There's plenty of suspense, enough violence to keep you on the edge of your seat, some romance between Kate and State Agent John Tomasetti, and some real insights into Amish culture. While this book seems to spend more time on Kate's emotions than the previous two, it's still an action-packed story.
Other reviewers have synopsized to book very well, so I'll skip that part and cut to the chase. Here, then, are the Top Ten Things That are Great about "Breaking Silence."
10. Dialog. Castillo writes good dialog. It's crisp, clean, and sounds natural. Each character has his own way of saying things, of course, but each sounds like a real person speaking.
9. I always like to learn something new when I read, even in fiction. I did not know that you could die very quickly in a manure pit. I figured it would be very unpleasant, but lethal had not occurred to me. And while this is information I probably won't need, I'll be sure to avoid all manure pits in the future.
8. Kate's crew: Pickles, Glock, TJ, and Mona's characters continue to evolve in this third book of the series. They add color to the narrative, they have distinct personalities, and probably back-stories of their own that we'll learn more of in the books ahead.
7. Castillo's books tell us much about the Amish culture. A while back, lured by the previous two Castillo books, I read a novel about an Amish family/Christmas story (and, committed to reviewing it, I read the whole thing). While, theoretically, I'd get more Amish facts from that, I didn't. Castillo's books explain much of the tradition, family customs, religions, beliefs, separatist notions, language, and more. And it's all done within the context of a fast-paced thriller.
6. A complex romance. Kate and John Tomasetti have an on again-off again relationship. They both come from deeply damaged places, and sometimes it's almost painful to watch their struggle for normalcy and comfort. But it's life-affirming the way they do, and sometime succeed. I'd call it a good love story without any mush.
5. Nasty characters. Castillo writes some devilishly nasty characters. They're not necessarily the villains, but they remind us that there are some angry twisted souls out there. Each Castillo book has a couple of these, and each is unique in his own twisted way.
4. Good physical descriptions. You'll feel the cold. You'll cringe through being soaking wet. You'll smell the smells and get a genuine feel for the homes, the landscape, and terrain of Painter's Mill and the surrounding areas.
3. An engaging B plot. When their parents die in the manure pit, three children are left without a family, except for an uncle who has been banned. His story has some interesting twists of its own.
2. A spectacularly twisted family back-story. I have to admit that my favorite part in mysteries is working backward through time, learning who the characters really are, why they are the way they are, what their past tells us, and what drives them. Castillo is a master of creating these dysfunctional family tales.
1. Twists and turns and more twists. I didn't predict this one... at all. It's a fast paced book that will keep you guessing until the end. I recommend it to everyone who likes his or her mysteries gritty and layered and quirky.