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by Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, July 2015
320 pages
ISBN: 1250061563

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

AFTER THE STORM, seventh in Linda Castillo's strong Kate Burkholder Mystery series, lives up to the promise of the first six novels. Set in a lovely Ohio countryside filled with both Amish and Englisher farms and the small town of Painters Mill, Burkholder works to maintain her balance as a former member of the Amish community who has stayed nearby but entered the world of the Englishers. She has moved in with her lover, retired Cleveland Police Detective John Tomasetti, and they work as a team when she is faced with difficult cases.

The storm in question is a massive tornado which whips through their county, destroying a mobile home park, a newish subdivision, and a number of nearby farms. As first responders, Burkholder and Tomasetti throw themselves into sorting out the carnage, rescuing as many persons as they and the police team can, and setting up as many centers for distributing medical help and daily provisions as they can find staff and materials for.

In the aftermath, as clean-up begins and goes on and on, a troop of Boy Scouts helping at a destroyed barn finds the remains of a long-dead victim victim because although down to just bones, and not all of those, it is clear that the body was wrapped in a large black trash bag. Not a natural burial at all. A fascinated team of assorted experts joins together to identify the remains and to figure out what might have happened to cause the death.

We know, from the first chapter, what happened, but we follow Burkholder as she digs through the past to find traces of this deceased person and those who could have known him. Castillo's creative genius gives us an unusual crime and a cast of secret-holding people who want to keep the truth buried. This author is simply first-rate in building characters, placing them in an intriguing setting, and giving them suspense-ridden and difficult mysteries to unravel. Over and above these focal points, she provides her protagonists with ongoing life situations that are demanding and thought-provoking.

Of course the mystery is solved in the end and the resolution is plausible and satisfying. The good guys are appealing and the threads of their back story are picked up and woven in naturally as they develop. The plot is both clever and complex and the pace is terrific. This is an author who is master of her craft.

Left unresolved are the personal issues that face Burkholder and Tomasetti and this novel is disturbing in what it opens up in their relationship. Lovers yes and deeply so, but they are lovers without a plan who find themselves making decisions after the fact rather than choosing what their situation will be. Burkholder is so far off-balance that she repeatedly puts herself in harm's way while performing her duties probably not consciously but deliberately nonetheless. She abandons the first responder's first responsibility which is to maintain her own safety and not compound the crisis by becoming another victim, and not just once. Psychologically, this points to huge problems ahead in the love relationship.

I can't wait for episode eight!

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, June 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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