Review: A Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder #10) by Linda Castillo

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A deadly fire exposes the dark side of Amish life in A Gathering of Secrets, a harrowing new thriller in the New York Times bestselling series by Linda Castillo.

When a historic barn burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. At first, it looks like an accident, but when the body of eighteen-year-old Daniel Gingerich is found inside—burned alive—Kate suspects murder. Who would want a well-liked, hardworking young Amish man dead? Kate delves into the investigation only to find herself stonewalled by the community to which she once belonged. Is their silence a result of the Amish tenet of separation? Or is this peaceful and deeply religious community conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about? Kate doubles down only to discover a plethora of secrets and a chilling series of crimes that shatters everything she thought she knew about her Amish roots—and herself.

As Kate wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past and an unthinkable possibility.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

A Gathering of Secrets will be available July 10, 2018.

Sometimes when a series has been around for awhile, the characters and the stories seem to get a little stale. That is not the case with the Kate Burkholder series. We are ten books in and I still enjoy it just as much as I did the beginning of the series.

I thought A Gathering of Secrets was a very well done procedural. As with most cases, there is a lot more going on than first suspected and the case becomes really personal for Kate, reminding her of things from her past she thought she moved on from. I also thought these elements were pretty timely to what’s going on in the world today. The pace was really steady with new clues revealed in every chapter. There were a few red herrings here and there, but everything about the resolution of the mystery made sense.  I suspected so many characters and it took me about as long as it did Kate to figure things out.

There are a couple of big character developments in this book. One with a beloved side character and one with Kate and Tomasetti. One of the only things I haven’t liked about the last few books in this series is that there isn’t as much Tomasetti as in the beginning. Now that he and Kate are involved, it makes working cases together a little trickier and since the romance is not front and center his role has been reduced. While I do wish we would’ve gotten a little more of him in this installment (I will never stop wanting more Tomasetti), it made me appreciate what we did get even more. He is such a great partner for Kate and I’m looking forward to watching their relationship develop even more in future books.

Overall, I really enjoyed A Gathering of Secrets. I thought the mystery was so well done and I found the book hard to put down. The story takes place in a fictional town in a real county that’s close to where I grew up and it’s always fun to recognize the locations mentioned (this one included the venue I had my junior prom at!). I definitely recommend this series to Mystery fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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“Her Last Breath” by Linda Castillo – 3 stars (out of 5)

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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.