Fresh Blood

Name: Linda Castillo

Title of Book: Sworn To Silence

'This review could be written with just one word - Brilliant!'

Sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community of Painters Mill, Ohio. A young Amish girl, Katie Burkholder, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Murders. In the aftermath of the killings, the town was left with a sense of fragility, a loss of innocence, and for Katie, the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish.

Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate Burkholder is back. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate for Chief of Police. She's certain she's come to terms with her past--until the first body is discovered in a snowy field.

Kate vows to stop the killer before he strikes again. But to name him, she would betray both her family and her Amish past--and expose a dark secret that could destroy her.

The debut novel from new author Castillo, will I am sure put her firmly on the map as one of crime's best new writers. The book has a powerful opening chapter which will hook the reader from the first word.

I found it interesting that it was not until some way into the book that any indication of the appearance of the lead character was given, but somehow I felt I already knew her by then and even without this description, had my expectation as to what she looked like. Chief Burkholder is an interesting and unusual character, being brought up in Amish society but having left when she was a young adult. But like many lead characters, she brought with her plenty of baggage from her past.

The plot is particularly gruesome, and very gripping although I would have liked to read more about why the murderer chose his particular victims and perhaps a little more about them. I was expecting the 'secret' of Kate's when it was finally revealed to be a little more explosive or at least dramatic, but that was my only criticism of the book.

This review could be written with just one word - Brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, was unable to put it down as I was so engrossed in both the story and the characters and the relationships between the characters. I eagerly await the next novel from Castillo.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) How would you classify your writing, and do you consciously try to write to a certain style or genre?
I would classify SWORN TO SILENCE as a crime thriller. Though I’m well aware of the parameters of the genre, I usually don’t consciously think of them as I’m writing. I just tell the story the way it needs to be told. Writing Sworn to Silence tested my limits as a writer. It’s the kind of book that forced me, as a storyteller, to dig into some areas I really didn’t want to get into. The story covers myriad moral issues that are not cut and dried. The lines between right and wrong and good and evil are blurred. It was a book that put my mind to work, and there were scenes that stumped me for days. Any writer will tell you those moments of uncertainty are excruciating. On a personal level, Sworn to Silence is by far the most satisfying and exciting book I’ve ever written.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I read crime thrillers almost exclusively because I enjoy those kinds of stories. One thing I look for in the books I read is a high level of intensity. I read crime thrillers because I like to be thrilled. I love to read books that push the envelope in some way. I’m certainly not afraid of blood or violence in the books I read or the books I write—as long as it’s not gratuitous. I enjoy stand alone books as well as series. It mostly depends on the author, his or her writing style and the story.
3) From the start of your book, the reader is almost led to believe that the main character is a male (by assumption). Was this deliberate? It was only after some pages in and the character was called by the name of Kate that I realised that he was a she! Was this deliberate…?
I didn’t realize this until one of my early readers pointed it out to me. At that point, I didn’t know if it was good or bad. Perhaps by not naming Kate right away, my subconscious was putting forth the supposition that when it comes to police work and solving crimes, gender just doesn’t matter.
4) What made you decide on using the Amish for Kate's upbringing? Do you have personal experience of the Amish or were you just interested in this religion/setting?
I couldn’t think of a more interesting setting for my book. As a writer, I wanted to explore this fascinating culture. I wanted to write a protagonist that could immerse us in that world. A character torn between two cultures—cultures that many times clash. I wanted to inject something terrible into this wholesome small town to see how this diverse character handled that kind of stress. I love the juxtaposition of wholesome versus evil. Several years ago I remember reading about an Amish man who basically went mad, murdered and eviscerated his young wife. It was a very sad and disturbing story that stuck with me. At the same time, it sparked the dark side of my imagination.
5) Kate is due to return in your latest novel. Will she be a regular character in your thrillers or will you start to introduce other main characters for future books?
Kate and Tomasetti will, indeed, return in future books. They have been wonderful characters to work with. They’re conflicted, fascinating and unpredictable with a fantastic chemistry. I love Kate’s imperfections and Tomasetti’s ambiguity. In fact, I recently learned they have a few more secrets up their sleeves that won’t be revealed until later books. I can’t wait to peel away all those layers. I’ve already completed the second novel in the series. The third book is in the works now. I will continue to develop my existing secondary characters as well as introducing new ones.
6) Apparently, you used to write romance novels. Was the change of genre easy to bridge, and what made you want to write a crime thriller?
The leap from writing romantic suspense to the crime thriller was a natural progression for me. I always tell people, “there’s always been a crime thriller inside me, trying to get out.” Well, with SWORN TO SILENCE, that story finally saw opportunity.
7) Do you carefully work out your plotting or do you ‘go with the flow’?
I’m a plotter. I always plot before I start writing. Ideas usually begin with a situation, perhaps something I’ve seen in the news or some story. That’s when the creative part of my brain takes over. I embellish on the story, adding depth and dimensions and, of course, the players involved.
8) Do you see any trends in Crime and Thriller novels for 2009 and beyond?
I believe there is a better selection of crime thrillers now than ever, ranging in tone from subtle to menacing to absolutely terrifying. Whatever your cup of tea, it’s out there, waiting to be read and enjoyed.
9) Who would be your dream cast of movie actors for an adaptation of your story?
This is a wonderful question! Evangeline Lilly (who plays the role of “Kate” on the television series “LOST”) would make a perfect Kate in SWORN TO SILENCE. Tomasetti would be played by Christopher Noth, who starred in the television series “LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT” as Detective Mike Logan.
10) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
This is a hard one. I’d have to say one of the top “twist” novels is Chuck Palahniuk’s FIGHT CLUB.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
I love the Jesse Stone movies based on the Robert Parker character and starring Tom Selleck. A recent film that certainly merit’s mention—even though it’s not a crime thriller!-is NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. The movie was an absolute thrill to watch. It was well cast, well written and every bit as thrilling as the book.
12) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I’m a huge fan of crime fiction. John Sandford is the master of the crime fiction series. I’ve followed his Lucas Davenport character from the start and I love him more now than in the beginning. Tami Hoag is another favourite of mine. I love the intensity of her writing and her tortured characters. Chelsea Cain excels at pushing the envelope with her unique characters and beautifully twisted storylines. Not to mention her nasty villain, Gretchen! I’m also a fan of Brian Freeman’s series featuring Jonathan Stride. Sandra Brown. Lisa Scottoline. Lisa Gardner. C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett is one of by faves. Alex Kava always delivers the goods. John Hart. There are so many wonderful authors out there, they are too numerous to name here.
13) What is your favourite read crime of all time?
Now that’s a difficult question to answer because I really have enjoyed so many. DARK HORSE by Tami Hoag stands out. BLOOD MEMORY by Greg Iles. Again, even though Cormac McCarthy’s book, THE ROAD, is not a crime thriller….it’s one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It kept me up until the wee hours of morning two nights in a row and stayed with me for a very long time.