Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review of "The Dead Will Tell" by Linda Castillo

The book starts out with a horrific crime: a 1979 home invasion of the Amish Hochstetler farm in Painters Mill, Ohio. A group of teens break in to steal cash and the night ends with a family slaughtered, a mother abducted, and a lone survivor - a 14-year-old boy. Fast forward 35 years and the perpetrators of the crime, now respected members of the community, start to get threatening letters. Soon afterwards, the killings start - with one after another of the original perpetrators brutally murdered by what appears to be a ghost.

Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her detectives investigate. They learn that phone calls have been passing between the original perpetrators, but these 'bad guys', of course, admit nothing. They make up spurious reasons for their phone calls and meetings, and claim to be bewildered by the murders. Nevertheless, they're terribly frightened: they wore masks during the home invasion and later killed and disposed of Mrs. Hochstetler - so who knows who they are?

Evidence at the crime scenes provides a connection between the Hochstetler tragedy and the current crimes, and Kate and crew proceed to ask questions of the surviving son, the Amish bishop, other people in Painters Mill, and so on. Kate gets some information that leads her to visit a fading Amish community in Pennsylvania, and the investigation proceeds. I always enjoy the peek into the Amish community that Burkholder includes in her books; good people with simple lifestyles who cherish their families and want to please God.

In Kate's personal life she's now living with her boyfriend, State Agent John Tomasetti. Though Kate and Tomasetti are happy together the agent is still torn up by the murder of his wife and daughters three years ago. In this book one of his family's murderers gets off on a technicality and Tomasetti is furious and seems to have some nefarious plans for the freed man - but it's not clear what. Kate is unhappy about this, wanting Tomasetti to let go of the past and move on. She even appears to be jealous of Tomasetti's love for his deceased family - which struck me as selfish and unattractive.

As usual in Burkholder's series there are some complicated family doings connected with the crimes, and Kate and her deputies are eventually able to unearth everyone's secrets. I enjoyed the book, but not as much as the previous entries in the series. For me there's getting to be too much similarity from book to book and the romance between Kate and Tomasetti doesn't ring quite true. Nevertheless this is an enjoyable mystery book and I'll probably continue to read the series.     

Rating: 3 stars


  1. I recently read her book, Among the Wicked, and enjoyed it. The Amish setting was far different from most mysteries, and I thought the protagonist was strong and believable. Details about Amish life painted a vivid picture of the community's beliefs and prejudices. I think Castillo might have a hard time maintaining interest (and believability)if she limits her investigations to Amish only.

  2. I agree the Amish setting might get confining. Maybe that's why "Among the Wicked" is set in a completely different Amish community than Painter's Mill.