Rocklin, CA, United States | Member Since 2004
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.
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