“Down A Dark Road” by Linda Castillo is an electrifying thriller. It seems with each book, this being the ninth, she gets better and better. Within a riveting mystery, she is able to seamlessly blend the Amish culture, giving glimpses and insights to their way of life.
The tidbits about the Amish help make the plot realistic. Family trumps all considering they are a strong and tight-knit community. When something bad happens they circle the wagons and step in to help. Although Kate left the Amish she still misses this. They try to maintain their culture by keeping their children under their thumbs, which is something Kate did not conform with. A scene in this book shows Kate’s independent side as she played ice hockey after being encouraged by Joseph; yet, her parents tried to steer her away. Probably because they are a male dominated patriarchal society where the husband has the final say. The scenes show this when Amish women interviewed by Kate are told by their husbands to get inside the house. Also, the phrases from their language, Pennsylvania Dutch add to the authenticity.
Once again small town Painters Mill Police Chief Kate Burkholder is forced to re-visit her childhood past. She is notified about the escape of Joseph King, convicted of killing his wife while his children slept in the same house. This is personal for her since he was her childhood friend and hero who she looked up to. Knowing that Joseph had always denied killing his wife Naomi, Kate begins to wonder if he is guilty or was he railroaded. Although never leaving the Amish community he has become a dark figure after losing his father in an accident.
Castillo comments about Kate, “She can be stubborn at times and never gives up. I also think she can be imperfect and impulsive. People should be aware that in the first book, ‘Sworn To Silence,’ her backstory was introduced. At that time she was a little rough around the edges and a damaged soul that drank way too much. In later books, I speak about her relationship with her siblings who have remained Amish. I hope to present in future books more of her imperfect childhood. Although she had a big heart Kate did lash out. At some point, I will examine her relationship with her mother and father who knew she was a rebel of sorts.”
Regarding Joseph, the author notes, “An imperfect and flawed man who went down a dark road. He lost control of his life. He was not a black and white person, but had a lot of gray. I am hoping that over the course of the book readers begin to care for and sympathize with him. I put in the scene where he defends his horse after someone threw an egg at the animal when he was only thirteen, and another time he comes to Kate and her sister’s defense. These scenes show how the English have participated in crimes against the Amish that also include throwing live firecrackers, bottles, and rocks into their buggies.”
In this book characters that come to life have readers caring what happens to them. As the mystery unfolds it becomes obvious this is not a cut and dry story that weaves suspense, humor, and a gripping tension.