Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review of "Among the Wicked" by Linda Castillo




As this eighth book in the series opens Kate Burkholder - Chief of Police in Painters Mill, Ohio - gets a visit from two law enforcement officers from New York State. Sheriff Dan Suggs and Investigator Frank Betancourt are concerned about the suspicious death of Rachel Esh, a 15-year-old Amish girl from Roaring Springs, New York. An autopsy showed that Rachel had drugs in her system and had undergone an abortion....very unusual for an Amish girl.

Moreover there are rumors of 'bad things' going on among the Roaring Springs Amish, who recently got a new Bishop named Eli Shrock. It seems that Bishop Shrock is much stricter than his predecessor and may be using harsh punishments to enforce his rules. The officers can't investigate any of this, however, because the Amish people keep to themselves and don't speak to the "English" police.

The New York cops, feeling particularly concerned about Amish children and teens in Roaring Springs, need an undercover agent to infiltrate and investigate. Kate is the perfect person for the job since she grew up in an Amish family until the age of 18 and can speak Pennsylvania Dutch. (Note: Kate's reasons for leaving the Amish community are discussed in previous books in the series.)

So Kate borrows some Amish clothing from her sister, packs up a couple of guns and a cell phone, and heads for Roaring Springs. Kate's boyfriend, Agent John Tomasetti, disapproves of Kate's potentially dangerous undercover assignment but she promises to be careful. And what can happen in an Amish town after all? As things turn out, quite a bit.

As soon as Kate arrives in Roaring Springs she dons her Amish clothes and makes it her business to visit the Amish run coffee shop and quilt store. She introduces herself as Kate Miller from Ohio, a recent widow who's looking for a more orthodox Amish community, like Bishop Shrock's. Kate rents a small trailer home whose one advantage is electricity (which the Amish don't use). Kate then buys a used scooter, hides her gun and cell phone under her clothes, and goes about her business. She frequents the coffee shop, joins a quilting circle, and attends an Amish church service. Kate takes every opportunity to talk to people and ask questions - trying to scope out the situation and find out about Rachel.

Kate quickly senses that something's wrong in Roaring Springs. The people seem unusually furtive and paranoid, and some sport odd injuries. In addition, while walking through the woods one night Kate comes across two Amish men on snowmobiles, wearing ski masks and doling out rough treatment to two female passengers. When Kate reports these occurrences to the Bishop, his behavior is DECIDEDLY OFF. Soon afterwards Kate experiences some rough treatment herself, for being a 'nosy Amish woman.'

Kate periodically calls Sheriff Suggs and tells him about all the suspicious behavior and violent occurrences. The law enforcement officials are concerned for Kate's safety but she's determined to stick it out...fearful that the local youngsters are in danger. Kate valiantly carries on and - in some exciting scenes - puts her life in danger while she tries to discover what's going on and who's involved.

I like this series, both for the mystery elements and the descriptions of Amish life and culture. That said, I was a little disappointed with this book. Most of the criminals are pretty easy to identify and the major crime is one which shows up a lot in books and TV these days.....thus not too original. Also, the perps get caught well before the end of the book, which then moseys along to the last page. My major criticism is a spoiler, so it's at the bottom of the review.

Still, this is an enjoyable book, recommended to mystery fans - especially people who like the Kate Burkholder series.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for a copy of this book.

                                                    BEWARE. SPOILER ALERT
My biggest criticism is that the author recycles a plot device - to do with a law enforcement office - from an earlier book in the series.

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