Her Last Breath is the fifth book in the Kate Burkholder series. For those that don’t know, Kate is the Police Chief of the small fictional town of Painters Mill in Holmes County Ohio, which is Amish county. She is a formerly Amish herself. One of my favorite things about the Kate Burkholder series is that I grew up quite close to Holmes County and almost all of my friends growing up had Amish relatives and I went to school with some Amish kids (up until 8th grade, which is the highest they go in public school). I know people that work at Pomerene Hospital in Millersbug, which is mentioned in every book. But I digress.
*POTENTIAL SPOILERS FROM THE FIRST FOUR BOOKS TO FOLLOW*
Her Last Breath opens with Kate being the first responder to a buggy accident. It appears to be a hit and run that kills a man and two of his children, leaving a third child injured. They happen to be the family of Kate’s childhood best friend, Mattie. The investigation leads to evidence that it may have been premeditated.
This book also continues Kate’s romantic relationship with John Tomasetti, an officer from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He’s bought a house in Wooster, the halfway point between where he works and where Kate works and is patiently – at times – waiting for Kate to decide if she wants to move in with him.
The third storyline woven in is that the remains of Daniel Lapp (the young Amish man that Kate shot when she was fourteen after he raped her) have finally been found and the police investigation leads straight to Kate’s family, whose farm was the last place Daniel Lapp was ever seen.
Thoughts (beware of possible spoilers):
-The summary for the book includes the phrase,” An extraordinarily beautiful Amish woman, a dangerous femme fatale”, so it’s pretty obvious that Mattie is not the perfect Amish woman she appears to be, but it takes until the final chapters to really reveal this and I felt like I was supposed to be surprised. Maybe I would be if I hadn’t read what the book was about before I read it.
-I felt like I needed more information of how Mattie is a “dangerous femme fatale.” In the previous books, the psycho’s psyche has been more greatly explored and I missed that in this book.
-The Daniel Lapp storyline was not wrapped up. Obviously this will continue in the next book, which is fine as it’s a central theme in how it shaped Kate to become the person she is today, but I felt like it was just repeating old territory. Kate fears being discovered and what it will do to her, her family, and her career.
-Not enough Tomasetti. In the previous books he’s been a part of the investigations, but in this book he mostly stayed at his new fixer-upper house, offering advice and comfort. I understand that his role in this book focused on how Kate needs him as a person versus how she needs him for the investigation, but I still would’ve liked to see more of him in this book.
-This book kept the red herrings to a minimum. While the previous books mostly gave several options on who the murderer(s) is/are, this book only gave a few options and I didn’t feel like any of them came out of left field. I like a mystery that can surprise me, but only as long as it makes sense.
-While Kate still has her issues, I found her to be more emotionally stable and likable in this book. I appreciate the character growth of both her and Tomasetti.
-Overall, it was another enjoyable addition to the Kate Burkholder series that I would recommend to readers interested in mystery/crime, as well as the Amish.