Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

Kate Burkholder grew up Amish in Painter's Mill, Ohio. When she was a young teen a series of murders gripped the town's imagination, ending when she was fourteen and leaving her to question everything she knew. At 18 she left the Amish community and became a cop. Now she's back in Painter's Mill as the chief-of-police and the murders have begun again. Is it the same killer from before, or someone new?

It's a good premise. In the right hands, it could be a gripping thriller, full of twists and turns and heart-pounding action. Unfortunately, Linda Castillo is not the right hands.

The story is told in both 1st person by Kate and in 3rd person from the perspective of other characters including the killer. An unreliable narrator can be a fun way to keep things fresh, however the 3rd person narration was all told in past tense while Kate told her story in the present tense and I found the switches distracting. Additionally, I've never been a big fan of stories told in the present tense as I inevitably find myself wondering why the character is taking the time to journal when running for their life!

I also found the repetition extremely annoying. I'm not sure if the author forgot what she had written or if she just thought the reader might be stupid but the same information was repeated ad nauseum on several occasions. How many times do you have to describe the grain silo? Or tell us who "Pickles" is? I felt I was being condescended to more than once.

The characters were all idiots too. Several times Kate would "notice a red flag" and then promptly forget about it so that she could "notice" it again a few pages later. The "terrible secret from her past" she spends much of her time worrying about seems overdone and the constant harping about it diminishes it's impact over time. The "final reveal" of the secret should come as no surprise at all to anyone who's read a thriller or two before. Finally, Kate's reluctance to involve anyone when she finally figures out who the killer is feels contrived to provide the big climactic scene which ruined it for me.

I did manage to get through the entire book, unlike similar stories I've tried recently, so there are some redeeming qualities, mostly the premise itself. If you are a fan of thrillers and don't care about choppy editing, unrealistic dialogue and incomprehensible intuitive leaps, you'll likely enjoy this book. If, like me, you've reached a point where you want good writing in addition to a good story, this one's not for you.

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I'm human, so I've got some issues, but all things considered I guess I'm reasonably normal. My parents are still married. My best friends are my sisters...okay, so I'm normal for the 1850's whatever. I'm opinionated and nerdy. I'm walking the line between tweener-style pop culture love (witness my ever-burning New Kids love and inexplicable Twilight obsession) and elitist culture snob (I can't seem to get enough 19th century British Lit and historical biographies) but, after 30 years, I'm finally learning not to give a crap what anyone else thinks about me. Oh, and those are my feet in the picture. The socks were made by a friend.

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