The enjoyment in reading a well-crafted mystery is in the building of the tension, the slow revelation of actions and clues, the unveiling of horror lurking beneath the rituals of everyday existence. All the rest is icing on the cake. The excitement is in the chase.
Fortunately, Castillo gives her story not only a compelling plot but also a unique setting: an Amish community in Painter’s Mill, Ohio. In this picturesque melding of past and present, where the Amish population coexists with their modern-day counterparts, a series of heinous murders committed sixteen years ago have scarred the community psyche, a history long-buried. Now, with the discovery of a murdered young woman, the nightmare reawakens, the ritualized killing too similar to the others to be ignored.
The sheriff of Painter’s Mill, Katie Burkholder, knows this place intimately. Breaking with the beliefs of her Amish family, Katie understands the complexities of her town and the significance of this fresh murder. Katie’s own experience with the serial killer sixteen years ago goes deeper than anyone knows, adding a new urgency to her investigation. When a pushy councilwoman involves the BCI, Katie’s dilemma is multiplied exponentially.
Through unexpected conflicts, the stresses of an opening murder investigation and Burkholder’s personal history, Castillo constructs a horrorscape of murder, fear and mistrust. In a town already suffering from deep social divisions, the return of violence is a stunning reminder of those who lurk among the innocent, monsters in the guise of humanity tracking their victims to feed an insatiable thirst for depravity.
A tale of pure evil descends on Painter’s Mill and sheriff Burkholder, the past mixed up with the present in a whirlwind of destruction that touches everyone. The pristine, snow-covered farmland cannot disguise the blood that stains this place, a terrible history that must be put to rest by an Amish-raised sheriff and a disenchanted BCI agent with his own demon-filled closet: “God has finally seen fit to punish me for what I did. And what I did not.”
Castillo delivers in a solid thriller where human depravity lurks in a God-fearing community, where a damaged young woman reclaims her soul in the face of evil, where a broken man rises above the ugliness of his painful past, and a gentle community is rocked by a macabre killer. Here is death, but also forgiveness and the realization that the past need not always color the future. Damage can be healed, guilt purged.