I was glued to this book for all 27 hours -- and the funny thing is, having read the book at least three times since it came out in 1973, I knew exactly what was going to happen. Clearly, it wasn't the element of suspense that got me -- even though there was still plenty of that. In a book this long, lots of things happen that I'd forgotten, or glossed over, before. Then too, listening to a book as compared to reading it, there are always things that seem new, that I hadn't considered before. But the big delight in listening, again, was just watching it all unfold -- seeing Edward X. Delaney plot, plan and scheme to take down the evil Daniel Blank for whom, ultimately, it's hard not to feel some level of compassion. The staid but quirky Delaney is on a par with the world's most memorable detectives -- Holmes, Piorot, Whimsey, and even Columbo, of whom he reminds me in some vague fashion (probably his absolute doggedness, in refusing to ever consider giving up or even backing down.) Bottom line, I loved this book -- absolutely loved it. Now I'm looking forward to all the rest of the "sins", wishing, for the first time in my life, that there were more than seven.
When a new Linda Castillo audio book comes out, I buy it immediately -- then 'save' it, for some time in the future when I need the distraction of what I know will be a really really good book. This is an awesome series, every one of them a work of art, worthy of listening to again and again.
That Linda Castillo has major talent is proved in the opening scene in "Her Last Breath". It starts with an absolutely horrific incident -- a car slams into an Amish horse-drawn wagon, killing two special needs children and their father. Another child barely clings to life lying in the ditch. It's a terrible scene, agonizing in every respect, exceptionally well told. After I finished the book, I went back and listened to that opening scene again. What I found was Castillo was able to convey the unspeakable horror of the whole thing without a bit of gore, no descriptions of blood or guts, no undue pandering to the more sanguinary aspects of the carnage. Instead, she conveyed what happened with small but meaningful symbols -- a child's shoe, the utter silence. What a talent! Lesser authors would have gone for the quick and easy route of talking about the oceans of blood, the screams of the dying.. that Castillo didn't says an awful lot about her talent.
The characters in the series are especially interesting -- Linda Burckholder, the oft-embattled police chief of tiny Painters Mill, OH, was herself born Amish. Now she comes back to her home town as a secular, single woman, no longer embracing the Amish way of life, and is forced to deal with all of the people who knew her back when, before she left the church. There's resentment, there's some admiration, a smidgen of envy on the part of a younger character or two, but whatever, every situation Burckholder encounters is tinged by the last -- hers, theirs, their old days together. There's the pain of seeing her nephews and nieces, her brother's children, family she hardly knows. Her brother and his wife don't want their children 'damaged' by getting to know their lost aunt. In this book, the wife and mother of those killed was Linda's best friend growing up, a woman who is now also estranged from the secular Linda, so there's tension in that relationship. And Linda -- and her brother and sister -- have a secret all their own, one which nearly comes to a head in this installment. There's tension throughout, well beyond the issue of who it was who rammed into the Amish wagon that night.
Through it all, Castillo manages to treat the Amish as .... as people. People just like everyone else. There's no undue sympathy, no condescension, no holding them to higher (or lower) standards. Different as the Amish way of life is, that's not easy to do, but Castillo brings it off to perfection.
If you aren't reading this series already, you've got a treat ahead. I didn't listen to the first three in order, it doesn't make much difference, so start anywhere. Now I'm waiting for the next book -- again, to save it for when I really need it.
I'm not a big fan of serial killer stories -- they tend to get boring and repetitious, not to mention unpleasantly over the top in terms of pain and gore. But in reading the blurb that described this book by Linda Castillo, something grabbed my attention -- not too sure what. In any event, I'm glad I bought it. It's different -- and very very good.
There's some blood and guts, to be sure, but not much. Most of the story focuses on the Police Chief protagonist, Kate Burkholder. (Ever notice how many female cops, etc, are named 'Kate'?) And she is an interesting bird -- grew up Amish, speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, at age 18 she elected not to join the church, and set out to become a police officer instead. Now she's been hired back in her home community, where she's trying to serve as a bridge between the Amish and the "English", ie, everyone else. Tough job -- would be a tough job for everyone, but needless to say, having a female chief of police would be a big enough issue in the first place, let alone one thought to harbor the pacifist ideals of the Amish community. In addition to everything else, Kate has a hostile board to deal with, people who seem set on making her life as miserable as possible. (Been there, done that myself -- maybe that's why I identified with this protagonist.)
Linda Castillo did an excellent job with this story -- really remarkable. There were times when Kate's anguish over things that were happening were so intensely described I actually shed a tear or two for her -- now when's the last time THAT happened? The whole thing is really well done -- and the narration by Kathleen McInerney is perfect for this book. Not overdone, not underdone, just right.
I've since bought two more books in this series, haven't listened to them yet, but if they're only partly as good as this one, they're more than worth it. Good book!
I love McKinty's writing, and I thought this was the best of the Duffy series. It's quite a complex mystery, and you have to wonder how he manages to survive the situations he gets himself into. I enjoy listening to Gerard Doyle reading; a perfect fit.