In the sleepy rural town of Painters Mill, Ohio, the Amish and English residents have lived side by side for two centuries. But sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community. In the aftermath of the violence, the town was left with a sense of fragility, a loss of innocence. Kate Burkholder, a young Amish girl, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Killer but came away from its brutality with the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish.
Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate has been asked to return to Painters Mill as Chief of Police. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate. 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 do so, she must betray both her family and her Amish past and expose a dark secret that could destroy her.
*Starred Review* Ohio’s Amish country serves as the bucolic backdrop for romance novelist Castillo’s consistently chilling mystery debut. Kate Burkholder grew up in idyllic Painters Mill, where many residents drive buggies, shun electricity, and distance themselves from the complications of modern life. The presence of a serial killer shatters the stillness of the town, leaving its citizenry terrified and on guard. During this time, young Kate’s life takes a fateful turn when she is sexually assaulted by an Amish man named Daniel Lapp. She shoots Lapp in self-defense and, seeing blood splattered across the floor, is certain he’s dead. (Her father drags away the body, and the family banishes the incident from their memories, never reporting it to police.) With Lapp’s demise, the area murders cease. Rattled residents rest easily once again. Fast-forward 16 years. Kate, now chief of police in Painters Mill, is faced with a series of brutal crimes in which the female victims are tortured and raped. Could Daniel Lapp still be alive? Kate battles her inner demons as she tracks down a killer who shows no sign of letting up. Can she come clean about her past without losing her job?
Deeply flawed characters in a distinctive setting make this a crackling good series opener, recommended for fans of T. Jefferson Parker and Robert Ellis, whose books take place in very un-Amish settings but who generate the same kind of chills and suspense. --Allison Block Booklist