The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
Among The Wicked by Linda Castillo is the latest in a series of books with a unique premise. It is no wonder this has made the New York Times Bestseller list with glimpses into the Amish life, well-developed characters, and a gripping plot.
Castillo noted to blackfive.net, “My two favorite books are Sworn To Silence, the first book in the series, where Kate Burkholder is born, created, and the setting of Painter’s Mill was conceived. In Among The Wicked, the recent book in the series, I finally wrote what I wanted to do for a long time, to put Kate back in the Amish life. Kate has to go back to this culture where she has many mixed feelings. Both books had winter settings that adds atmosphere. I wanted to write a series where the protagonist is immersed and torn between two cultures that many times clash. I also include some of their belief system. This includes being a pacifist, not behaving in violence, believing in forgiveness, and not wanting to be worldly. They have a strong sense of family and community. They are connected in ways that mainstream American society is not. I write about the unwritten rules of not having a phone in their house, but being able to use a pay phone at the end of their block, or not driving a vehicle, but if they must go a long distance being able to hire a driver. The contrast of old versus new is profound.”
In this book her main character, Police Chief Kate Burkholder, goes undercover as an Amish woman, essentially heading back to her roots. She is forced to confront her past life in a community that isolates itself, and within an unfamiliar environment, upstate New York. Castillo brilliantly portrays Kate’s struggles with her own personal conflicts between her Amish upbringing and her current English life. Called upon by law enforcement in rural New York, because of her Amish roots, she is asked to infiltrate a reclusive Amish settlement to find answers behind a girl’s death. This unorthodox assignment with limited communication puts her in constant danger as she tries to find answers.
Castillo considerers her police contacts “valuable. I went to dinner with a police chief whose territory included Amish country. I’m a graduate of two citizen police academies where I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful officers and learn about what they do in a weekly class. I did ride-alongs in a large metropolitan city with both male and female officers. I participated in a shoot/no shoot scenario. I was given a police issue plugged 45 revolver. I entered this ladies restroom, and saw a man on top of a woman. He clearly had something black in his hand. I fired my weapon and shot him. He had this big grin on his face and held up his police badge. I got razzed for the rest of the course and they never let me live it down. The citizen police academies were an interesting experience and incredibly educational, and allowed me to get in the head of a police officer.”
Readers will feel a deep connection with Kate. Castillo is one of those special writers that draws people into her characters, rooting for the protagonists and seeing pure evil in the antagonists. Kate is compassionate, feisty, intelligent, tough, and devoted to finding justice. With each book the author peels off layers of Kate’s backstory, allowing people to see her flaws and the challenges from her past. She is a kindred spirit with her lover, BCI Detective Tom Tomasetti. Both sought vigilante justice, had secrets, and were not in a good place when the series began. But with this book readers can see how they have bonded with the same personalities and belief systems, as well as hoping for a happy future.
Powerful quotes reflect the real world of the police that are represented in Kate’s attitude. “That when I sink my teeth into a case, I can’t let it go, sometimes to my own detriment… Because I am a cop. Because I’m the best person for the job. Because I am good at what I do. Because she doesn’t have anyone else to speak for her.” And, “Being a good cop, being careful and following the rules isn’t always enough. Cops will get hurt. Sometimes they die. Welcome to law enforcement.”
The author wanted to make sure Kate is comfortable in her role as a female police chief. She commented, “The one place she fits in is that she is a cop through and through. When I was at the police academies it really gave me a new perspective on the dangerous and difficult work police officers face every day and the ability to write these police procedural scenes.”
This series is very realistic as Castillo blends glimpses of the Amish community within an intense and compelling storyline. Readers are drawn into the story and hooked from page one. This is a homerun, as Kate’s own personal conflicts blends into the crime she is trying to solve.