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Book Review: Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo

opyright: 2013 by Linda Castillo
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

She was fourteen years old when a farm hand tried to rape her. Katie Burkholder was able to grab her grandfather’s rifle and shoot her attacker. She killed him. Sworn to silence by her Amish father, Katie and her siblings kept their secret for seventeen years. He and her brother buried the body of the man who attacked her in a place where they believed it would never be found. Several years later Katie left the Amish community. But as much as she would have liked to forget the nightmare of that day, it haunted her very being. Flash forward seventeen years and Kate is the police chief of the small town of Painter’s Mill where she grew up. Two boys playing in an abandoned grain elevator find a human skull.

Her Last Breath is the fifth novel of the Kate Burkholder series by Linda Castillo. Kate was born Amish, but left the community and was unofficially banned. She spent years in various police forces prior to being hired as chief of police of Painter’s Mill, a small town that consisted of a mixture of Amish and Englischers. Her Amish background gave her an understanding of the people she protected. There is a certain amount of animosity between the Amish and the other residents. For instance, automobile drivers hated getting stuck behind slow buggies on the roads. They complained that the buggies were difficult to see after dark and the Amish were encouraged to put a reflective sign on the back of their buggies to made them more visible after dark. Some refused. For the most part, the people lived peacefully amongst each other, with the Amish preferring minimal interaction with the other citizens. The drama opens with a 911 call. Someone reports that there has been an accident. An Amish man was driving his buggy with his three young children aboard when a motorized vehicle broadsided him. The man, two of his children and the horse were thrown from the buggy and killed. One child was rushed to the hospital. The force of the impact was so great that pieces of the buggy were all over the place. However there was only one visible piece of the vehicle that hit it, a mirror. The accident was a hit and run. The scene became more horrifying for Chief Burkholder when she realized that the victims were the husband and children of Mattie, who had been Kate’s closest friend growing up.

The investigation that follows is both dangerous and emotional for Kate. As if this weren’t enough, Kate finds herself at a crossroads in her personal life with her boyfriend John Tomasetti looking for a greater commitment and the very real possibility that the incident from her childhood will destroy her present. The case takes some shocking twists and turns, while the author is able to educate us about the Amish life style.

My only criticism of this series is that Kate keeps getting beat up. The scenes where this happens are very graphic. Kate seems to get herself into an abnormal number of these situations, particularly for a small town cop. Still the book was an excellent read.

Linda Castillo lives with her husband in Texas. She has received numerous awards for her Kate Burkholder crime series that is sent in Amish country. They are:

Sworn to Silence (2009)

Pray for Silence (2010)

Breaking Silence (2011)

Gone Missing (2012)

Her Last Breath (2013)

The Dead Will Tell (2014)

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