Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo


This is the first in the Kate Burkholder mystery series. Be forewarned -If you think this will be a nice cozy Amish mystery, it’s not. It does have some graphic scenes describing the murder victims, and there are depictions of sex and some strong language as well. Kate grew up in the Amish community, but now is a Police Chief of Painters Mill, Ohio where a brutal murder has been discovered. Kate experienced a terrible event when she was 14 resulting in her rebelling and leaving the Amish community. She is a strong woman, but she also carries with her a terrible secret that threatens to be exposed in the investigation as it soon becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose. This well-written series gives a strong sense of place, has good plotting, and a likeable protagonist. There is an ensemble cast in the police department with some interesting characters that add to the series. Linda Castillo is off to a strong start with this series.  I’ll certainly read the rest of the series.

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I just finished listening to this book and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The reader, Brittany Pressley, did an excellent job reading it, and I would often find myself sitting in my garage because I didn’t want to stop the book.  There happen to be two books of this same title that came out within months of each other.  The other one seems to be getting a lot more press, but this one deserves to be getting a lot of attention.  I do plan to read the other one soon.  The book starts off when Clare Lawson is home with her daughter and suddenly her home is invaded by men with guns knocking down her door.  While they are there her husband walks through the door, and he is arrested.  The book chapters alternate between  “then” and  “now” where details are gradually revealed of Clare’s disturbing past and her coming to grip with new details of her past and being forced to assess her part in it.  We find out that Clare has grown up in a foster home .  She was told as a child that her parents gave her away and she has been raised and trained with manners and education by her adoptive family.  Against her adoptive family’s wishes, she falls in love and eventually marries their son. Now she finds herself confined in a “hospital” being questioned by people who call her Diane.  Clare eventually has reason to question everything about her life and who she really is.  This psychological suspense novel is gripping, fast paced, and delves into the seedier side of our society.  It brings up the question of whether Clara is a victim, perpetrator, or both.  Like me, you won’t want to put it down.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

The Girl You left Behind was very different from Me Before You and its sequel, After You. The book is set in two different time periods with interlocking story lines.  The beginning is set in 1916 in occupied France.  Sophie Lefevre is married to an artist, Edouard Lefevre who has gone off to fight in the war.  Sophie has moved back to her family home where her family operates a hotel where the Germans expect her to cook their meals.  For comfort she keeps a copy of a painting Edouard painted of her hanging in the hotel.  The Kommandant takes an interest in both Sophie and the painting, putting her in a perilous position.  During this turbulent and treacherous time Sophie eventually risks everything to try to be reunited with her husband.  Flash forward 100 years to London. Liv Halston still mourns the loss of her architect husband who died 4 years previously.  She has hanging in her bedroom the painting of Sophie.  The painting appeared in a article in an architectural magazine featuring the Halston’s house, so relatives of Sophie have learned of its existence and start the battle to reclaim the painting as a stolen piece of art during the war.  Liv, however, does not want to give up the painting because her husband had bought it for her on their honeymoon, and it means a lot to her.  To make matters more complicated, the man she recently met and was beginning to get interested in, works for the company trying to reclaim the painting.  I listened to the book  and would highly recommend the audiobook version.  The girl narrating Sophie has a french accent and is wonderful.  This book has an interesting story with interesting main characters, a little bit of history, and poses a lot of what would you do in this situation type of questions.  It appears to be a hallmark of Moyes’s books that you’re never quite sure if the book is heading in the direction you think it is.  I’ll continue to read/listen to more of her books.

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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I recently finished reading Underground Railroad.  Cora is a slave on a Georgia plantation who learns of the Underground Railroad from another slave who has arrived from Virginia. They decide to make a break for it and escape.  The book chronicles the journey and the horrors encountered along the way.  It is always difficult to read about what the slaves suffered through, and this book doesn’t gloss over the atrocities they endured.   It is hard to imagine that men and women can be so cruel to another human being.  The book was a National Book Award winner, and although I did like it, I didn’t like the book as much as thought I would.  I didn’t connect with the main character, and I think it was because of the disjointed way the stories of all the other characters were inserted.  I also wasn’t a big fan of his making the Underground Railroad a real railroad, and didn’t understand the purpose or need for that device.  I would still recommend the book.  It just wasn’t one of my favorites.

Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton

This is the eighth entry in the Alex McKnight mystery series.  Alex McKnight is a retired Detroit police officer who has experienced personal violent loss and now lives in a cabin in Paris, Michigan with a bullet lodged near his heart.  He is surprised one day to find police chief and arch enemy, Maven, at his door  with a request for Alex.  He would like for him to look into a suicide of a young college student who was found hanging from a tree in remote Misery Bay in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  His father, a friend of Maven’s and  a U.S. Marshall, is struggling with his son’t death and would just like someone to look into why his son might have done this.  Although Alex doesn’t usually do private investigation he is one of two with a license in the small town.  Alex eventually agrees, but shortly afterward the father is found murdered in Maven’s home where he was staying.  Things quickly speed up and the body count continues as this case turns into something much more.  The book is fast paced with good characterization and a well-developed story with lots of twists.