Linda Castillo’s Gone Missing is the fourth in her Kate Burkholder series. It’s the first book I’ve read by this author but that wasn’t a problem. Castillo constructed the series in such a way that anyone can pick it up at any time without feeling lost. Downside of this approach is that some elements will be repetitive should one choose to read more of this author. But since this was my first, I was glad to learn a lot about Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her love interest Detective Tomasetti.
If you know the series, you know it has a very special setting, namely Ohio’s Amish Country. I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish (or any other religious group like them). Apart from being a very gripping read, this book offers a great introduction to the Amish way of life. What is very important is the fact that Kate Burkholder was Amish. Whenever there is a crime in the Amish community, it’s likely other police forces will ask for her help. Not only because she knows the Amish but because she does speak Pennsylvania Dutch and therefore the Amish are much more likely to talk to her. I had never heard of Pennsylvania Dutch before and the sentences she included all through the book surprised me greatly. I thought it would be like Dutch, but no, not at all – it was almost the exact same language as Swiss. With the exception of a few words, I could understand it all.
A series of missing Amish teenage girls awakens the mistrust of the police. Something cannot be right. When they find blood on one of the locations where one of the girls was last seen, it’s clear that a crime has happened.
Burkholder and Tomasetti who work together on this case know that they have to be quick. The girls may still be alive and could be saved if they manage to find them in time.
The book starts with the suicide of an Amish girl, ten years before the other girls go missing. Once they dig deeper, they notice that there are a few cold cases of girls gone missing, some a long time ago. All these cases appear to be linked.
I can’t reveal too much or the book is spoilt. Just this much – they gather a lot of information and make good progress when suddenly they find out that the culprit might be someone they didn’t suspect at all and this puts them in great danger.
Kate is an interesting character. We learn why she left the Amish life and what has happened to her in the past that makes her so suspicious. Tomasetti is equally damaged and they try to take things very slowly. I thought they worked very well as a couple, both are appealing characters.
Because the case makes them visit a lot of different Amish families we read about different ways. Unfortunately all the Amish families have one thing in common – they are highly patriarchal, the father makes all the decisions.
All the girls go missing during their “rumspringa” – literally that would mean “jumping around”. It’s a time during which they are allowed to be “wild”, to drink, smoke and party before they have to decide whether they want to be baptised and follow the plain life or not.
I really liked the crime aspect and how it was solved and the characters as well, plus the Amish setting was informative and fascinating. I also enjoyed that Kate, having left the Amish, still feels somewhat nostalgic about her childhood and often not only mentions negative but very positive aspects of Amish life. What I liked less were a few cringe worthy passages towards the end when Burkholder speaks about “the blue brotherhood” (meaning the police force and how tight-knit they are)… Brrr. Shudder. Other than that it’s great.
I highly recommend to try the series. I thought Gone Missing was very well constructed and suspenseful. The solution was creepy and, thanks to a final twist, even chilling. For those not sure whether they would like it or not – there is a 60 page short story Long Lost available for the kindle, under 1$. I think it is set between Gone Missing and the next one in the series.