Sworn to Silence

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When a serial killer strikes bucolic Painters Mill, Ohio, the killer's signature -—Roman numerals ritualistically carved into each victim's abdomen- —matches the MO of four unsolved murders from 16 years earlier. Police chief Kate Burkholder, who's reluctant to dredge up the past, must keep secret that she knows why the old murders stopped. Not satisfied with the case's progress, local politicos set up a multijurisdictional task force to assist, including a law-enforcement agent battling his own demons. The added scrutiny and the rising body count threaten to push the chief over the edge. Adept at creating characters with depth and nuance, Castillo smoothly integrates their backstories into a well-paced plot that illuminates the divide between the Amish and English worlds.

Hardcover, 321 pages

Published June 23rd 2009 by Minotaur Books 



My Review:



Sworn to Silence is KILLER! What a great novel. I almost did not make it passed the opening scene. It is very, very gruesome!

Yes, I know. What was I doing then reading this book? Well, for one it has been liked and recommended by so many and frankly, two, no one told me that the cases in this novel are so horrific. So…I will warn you now… before you read this book, know that these triggers are all over: rape, murder, sadomasochism (SM), porn, masturbation, meat hooks, chains, blades, blood, guts, slaughter, slicing, beating, shooting, tying up, gagging, burning, suffocating……take a breath…..rape with objects, strangulation, hanging, abduction, decomposition and autopsies…..This may not even be all!

Painters Mill, Ohio. A rural place where the Amish and English live side by side. It has been so for many years and through common effort, everything is peaceful. The Amish work hard on their farms, follow the “Ordnung” of their order and deal with issues in the community among themselves. 

Kate Burkholder, the local chief of police, was born into the Amish community and chose to leave it after a violent incident that happened 16 years ago when she was only 14 years old. A secret that her family kept hidden from everyone and one she rather not think about. 

The body of a woman (after the gruesome opening scene!!!) is found in a snow field on a very cold Ohio evening in winter. Upon the autopsy, Kate learns that this woman had been tortured, raped and killed, and holds the signature markings of similar cases by a serial killer that murdered in the area 16 years ago. At first, Kate does not directly draw the idea that this may have something to do with her past secret, but as a few more murders happen, she begins to backtrack her own experiences to investigate a connection. 

Kate is a very capable and experienced chief in her department. As the cases begin to add up and everyone is working around the clock, the people in the area begin to panic. The town council is keeping a close eye on the investigation and Kates’ methods. Despite an extra police officer that is sent to help in the investigation, Kate never calls in the FBI or any other larger enforcement. After being highly criticized upon her failure to do so, she is let go immediately. 

Kate has to backtrack her life up close and personal. That includes talking to her estranged Amish brother and his wife. As she is beginning to follow the lead of her personal investigation, she also gets involved in a budding romance with the police officer that was helping out at the station. Ultimately this saves her life at the end, as every town has its bad egg. 


What I liked about this novel is that every (good!) character was relatable to. Everyone had a story, nothing seemed to far-fetched. The working relations were good, the banter and trust among the fellow police was there and well written…it almost could have been happening right next door.

This novel is almost 10 years old and the beginning of a series. Considering the violence that is going on in this novel, it seems hard to believe that acts as such were even thinkable. But I guess, crimes are timeless. They probably do happen and have happened always, which makes this novel a great thriller back then as well as now. 

I never could figure out who the bad guy was till a certain turning point in the novel. This was an added bonus I think, as new characters were introduced that may have been half shady and my suspicions kept changing. So this really kept me on my toes. 
I highly recommend!