Review: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Title: Sworn to Silence

Author: Linda Castillo

Narrator: Kathleen McInerney

Publisher: MacMillan Audio [2009]

ISBN: n/a (downloaded from audible.com]

Length: 11hrs 43mins

Genre: Police Procedural (small town)

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My rating: 3.5/5

One-liner: Engaging characters in an interesting setting but I could do without the violence .

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One night in the middle of winter a body is discovered in the snow in a small town of Painters Mill, Ohio. The woman appears to have been brutally murdered in a way that reminds everyone of a series of murders which took place in the area 16 years previously. The one person who doesn’t believe the same killer, named the Slaughterhouse Killer at the time, is active again is the town’s Police Chief Kate Burkholder. She shares a secret with two other people about that previous string of murders which makes her almost positive it’s a different killer. Accordingly she points the current investigation in other directions but the town’s other officials bring in outside help to ensure that the investigation focuses on any links to the Slaughterhouse Killer case.

The most engaging aspect of this book for me is the character of Kate Burkholder and the aspects of town life that are depicted through her. The area is home to an Amish community, of which Kate was a member until she was 18, and there is some unrest between the other townspeople and the Amish. Although Kate is no longer Amish her brother and sister are still in the community and overall she respects the Amish community even though she chose not to join it. She is a focal point for relationships between the town’s two divergent cultures and I am a sucker for stories which feature religions different to the one I was brought up with. Kate also struggles for much of the book with the knowledge that her secret may be forcing her to take actions which are not in the best interests of solving the case and I thought this complex issue was portrayed very realistically.

Overall the story was well paced: not screaming along at thriller pace but nor did it plod. There were several minor climax points before the ending and I didn’t lose my attention once. As well as being intrigued by Kate, my interest was held by an array of minor characters, mainly working in the police station. The seeds of a series were most obvious with this introduction of an engaging cast although I can’t envisage endless storylines in this setting.

I did struggle with other parts of the book. I found the burgeoning relationship between Kate and one of the external investigators brought in to help, John Tomasetti, too predictable and a bit soppy. However this probably won’t bother most readers who can’t be as unromantic as me. There were also a few plot points I found stretching my credibility metre. At one point for example someone is framed as the perpetrator of the murders and I just could not buy that everyone but Kate was so gullible as to accept the most unlikely killer. However my real issue was with the overly graphic depictions of the violence visited upon the victims of the killer (because of course one body is never enough). It really didn’t add anything to the story to have several paragraphs of bodily mutilations described for each victim and, rarely for me, I wished I was reading rather than listening so I could skip those bits.

Sworn to Silence offers a really solid story, some engaging characters and an interesting setting (although perhaps I got extra enjoyment because each mention of the wintry snow made me forget, momentarily, our unseasonal heatwave). However I’d like to see the next book avoid the overly gruesome violence.

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The book is very well narrated by Katherine McInerney and the audible version that I bought has a nice bonus in the form of an interview with the author. It’s an interview by the publisher so it’s not exactly hard-hitting but does provide an opportunity for Castillo to talk about her research methodologies (she has completed two lots of civilian police training among many other activities) and she gives some good background to the book. Unfortunately she wasn’t asked about the value of the detailed and gruesome depictions of the violent mutilations of the victims and whether or not she thought the book could have been just as good without them.

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This book has also been reviewed at Petrona (where Maxine shared my concerns about the violence but not about the romance), Lesa’s Book Critiques, Book Addiction and Whimpulsive

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7 Responses to Review: Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

  1. Maxine says:

    Great review, Bernadette. You put your finger on some of the appeal of the book to me- the “outsider having chosen a different path to her culture” is always a good one I think. I agree with you on the excessive details of the deaths, etc. I suppose some people must like reading about that but I don’t. I saw after I read this book that the author has previously written romantic fiction which might have something to do with the slightly unreal elements of the love story aspect of this book. (This is her first crime book.) I don’t mind a bit of romance as long as there isn’t too much and it isn’t soppy. 😉 I agree it was slightly OTT (idealised) in this book but it didn’t bother me too much. I did find the ending far too drawn out, though.

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  2. Heather says:

    Great review! I agree with you with most everything you said here. I too think that the descriptions of the murdered bodies were a little much, but I’m thinking that for some people they like that stuff in their thrillers, so maybe that’s why… I don’t read too many thrillers so perhaps I’m just giving that a pass because of my unfamiliarity with the genre. 🙂 But the book definitely made me want to continue with the series once Castillo writes more about Kate Burkholder.

    Thanks for the link love!

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