A deadly fire exposes the dark side of Amish life in A Gathering of Secrets, a harrowing new thriller in the New York Times bestselling series (July 2017) by Linda Castillo.
When a historic barn burns to the ground in the middle of the night, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called in to investigate. At first, it looks like an accident, but when the body of eighteen-year-old Daniel Gingerich is found inside—burned alive—Kate suspects murder. Who would want a well-liked, hardworking young Amish man dead? Kate delves into the investigation only to find herself stonewalled by the community to which she once belonged. Is their silence a result of the Amish tenet of separation? Or is this peaceful and deeply religious community conspiring to hide a truth no one wants to talk about? Kate doubles down only to discover a plethora of secrets and a chilling series of crimes that shatters everything she thought she knew about her Amish roots—and herself.
As Kate wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted by her own violent past and an unthinkable possibility.
About the Author
Linda Castillo is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder novels, including Sworn to Silence which was adapted into a Lifetime Original Movie titled An Amish Murder starring Neve Campbell as Kate Burkholder. Castillo is the recipient of numerous industry awards including a nomination by the International Thriller Writers for Best Hardcover, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and a nomination for the RITA. In addition to writing, Castillo’s other passion is horses. She lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next novel.
Read an Excerpt
Six months later
He dressed in his English clothes. Blue jeans. Plain white T-shirt. The cowboy boots he'd laid down a boatload of money for at the Western store in Berlin.
Anticipation sizzled inside him as he left his bedroom and stepped into the darkened hall. He didn't like this secret thing he'd become. The part of him he barely recognized these days. But there was no stopping it. He'd learned to live with it. Some small part of him had learned to embrace it.
His parents' bedroom door stood ajar; he could hear his datt snoring from within. The door to the room where his sisters slept was open halfway. He thought he could smell their sweet little-girl scents, and he smiled as he slid past. The door to his other sister's room was closed. She'd been doing that for about a year now. Growing up, he supposed. Girls kept secrets, too.
He wasn't unduly worried about getting caught as he started down the stairs. He was on Rumspringa, after all. For the last few months he'd pretty much done as he pleased; his parents pretended not to notice. He'd tasted whiskey for the first time. Bought his first car. Experienced his first hangover. Smoked his first Marlboro. He'd been staying out late and coming home at all hours. Of course, Mamm and Datt didn't like it, but they held their tongues. They made excuses to his sisters. Your brother's working a lot, they would say. But they prayed for his soul. It was all part of growing up Amish. Maybe the best part.
Around him, the house was silent and dark, the only light filtering in through the windows in the living room, twin gray rectangles set into infinite blackness. The aromas of lamp oil and the remnants of the fried bologna sandwiches they'd had for dinner mingled with the cool breeze seeping in through the screens. He pulled the note from his pocket as he entered the kitchen. Pausing at the table, he plucked the tiny flashlight from his rear pocket, shined the beam on the paper, and read it for the dozenth time.
Meet me in the barn at midnight. I'll make it worth your while.
She'd written the words in purple ink. There were hearts over the "i"s and frilly little curlicues on the tails of the "y" and the "g." The smiley face made him grin. He almost couldn't believe she'd finally come around. After weeks of cajoling, and a hundred sleepless nights filled with the longing that came often and with unexpected urgency now, he would finally have her.
No time to waste.
He was wishing he'd thought to brush his teeth as he let himself out through the back door. Around him, the night was humid and breezy, the sky lit with a thousand stars. A yellow sliver of moon rested against the treetops to the east. Ahead, he could just make out the hulking silhouette of the barn sixty yards away. His feet crunched over gravel as he traversed the driveway and went up the ramp. The big sliding door stood open about a foot. Datt always closed it to keep the foxes and coyotes away from the chickens. She's here, he thought, and an electric thrill raced through him with such force that his legs went jittery, his stride faltering.
He went through the door, the smells of horses and fresh-cut hay greeting him. The interior was pitch-black, but he knew every inch of the barn, and though he couldn't see his hand in front of his face, he knew exactly where to find the lantern, on its hook hanging from the overhead beam. He reached for it, felt around, but for some reason it wasn't there.
"Shit," he muttered, and pulled the flashlight from his rear pocket, flicked it on. The shadows retreated to the corners, the beam revealing a floating universe of silver dust motes.
"Hello?" he called out. "You there?"
He listened, but there was no reply.
Puzzled, he walked past the wagon mounded with the hay he and Datt had cut last month. Next to it stood the old manure spreader with the broken wheel he'd promised to repair a week ago. In the back of his mind he wondered why the two buggy horses didn't greet him from their stalls. No matter the hour, they were always ready for a snack and never shy about asking for it. He crossed the dirt floor, reached the step-up to the raised wood decking where they stored the burlap bags of oats and corn and chicken scratch. He stopped, sweeping the beam right and left. A grin spread across his face when he spotted the sliver of light beneath the door of the tack room.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Lowering the beam, he started down the aisle.
At first, he thought it odd that she would choose the tack room. But on second thought the small space was clean, with a hardwood floor that was swept daily, and smelled of leather and saddle soap. It was the place where they stored the horse blankets, halters, and harnesses. More important, the door had a lock. Datt had installed it after a halter, a saddle, and two leather harnesses were stolen a couple months ago. He knew it was the Englischer down the road who'd done it. Probably sold them at horse auction in Millersburg for some quick cash. The guy was a thief and a boozer, to boot.
He hadn't even laid eyes on her yet, but already he could feel his body responding as he drew closer to the tack room. His datt called it lusht and warned him to beware of its power. But what did an old man remember about lust? What did he remember about being eighteen years old? If God had put it into the hearts of men, how could it be bad?
Reaching the tack room, he twisted the knob and opened the door. Golden light filled the small space. The smells of freshly oiled leather and kerosene and the lingering redolence of her perfume filled the air. Two horse blankets had been spread out on the floor. Atop the old fifty-gallon drum, a candle on a little white dish flickered. She'd even brought a bottle of wine. Two plastic glasses, the kind with stems. His smile grew into a laugh as he stepped inside.
"The only thing missing is the girl," he said, knowing she was within earshot, listening. "I wonder where she is."
Keenly aware of his surroundings, knowing she had to be close, he flicked off his flashlight and walked over to the blankets. The wine bottle was already open. Setting the flashlight on the drum, he sat down cross-legged, resting his hands on his knees.
"If she doesn't show up soon, I'm going to have to drink this wine all by myself," he said, louder now, expecting her to sweep into the room at any moment, giggling and ready. He'd already gone hard down there, a heated pulse he could no more control than his own breathing. He could imagine the soft warmth of her body against his, the firm rise of her breasts, and he couldn't believe he would finally have all of her tonight.
Reaching for the bottle, he poured, anticipating the sweet tang of red wine against his tongue. He was thinking about all the things they would do when the tack room door creaked. A quick jump of anticipation, then the door slammed hard enough to jangle the halters hanging on the wall.
Startled, he set down the bottle and rose.
The sound of the lock snicking into place sent him to the door. "What are you doing, babes?" He tried the knob, found it locked.
"Hey!" he called out. "Baby, you are so going to pay for this!"
Sounds outside the door drew his attention. Something being dragged across the floor. Heavy things thumping against the door. Perplexed, he jiggled the knob and forced a laugh. "What are you up to?" He'd intended for the words to come out playfully, but there was an edge in his voice now. He wasn't in the mood for this kind of game. Not tonight.
"Come on, babes!" he snapped. "Enough playing around! Come on in here and keep me company!"
The sounds outside the door ceased. Curious, he set his ear against the wood, listened. Nothing.
"If I have to break this door down, you're going to be sorry!" He tried to keep his voice light, add a playful note, but his patience was wearing thin. "You hear me?"
He waited a beat. Thought he heard footsteps. Wood scraping against wood. What the hell was she up to?
"All right, baby. Have it your way." He jiggled the knob again, tamped down a rise of irritation. "I'm just going to pour myself a glass of wine and drink it without you."
Moving away slightly, he braced his shoulder and shoved against the wood, testing its strength. The door shuddered, but held. Frowning, he jiggled the knob again. "Come on, baby, let me out. Whatever I did, I'll make it up to you."
When no reply came, his anger surged. Using his shoulder, he rammed the door. Another satisfying shudder. He was gearing up to do it again when the smell of smoke registered. Not from the candles or lantern. Not from a cigarette. Something was burning.
Cursing beneath his breath, he looked down and was shocked to see tendrils of smoke rising from beneath the door. Something definitely burning. Wood and hay. Kerosene maybe. What the hell?
All semblance of playfulness left him. He slapped his open palms against the door. "Open up!" he shouted, anger resonating in his voice. "You're going to burn the damn place down, baby. Come on. This isn't funny!"
Backing up, he got a running start and slammed his shoulder against the door. Wood creaked, but it didn't give way. He set his hand against it, realized the surface was warm to the touch. What the hell was this? Some kind of joke? What could she possibly be thinking?
"This is a dangerous thing you're doing!" he shouted. "Stop screwing around and open the damn door. Now!"
He listened, heard the crackle of what sounded like fire. Fingers of alarm jabbed into the back of his neck, sharp claws sinking in deep and curling around his spine. He stood back and landed a kick against the wood, next to the knob. Another satisfying crack. Raising his leg, he kicked it again. Part of the wood jamb split. He could see the brass of the dead bolt now. At some point he'd begun to cough. Smoke was pouring in from beneath the door, black and choking and thick.
"Come on!" he screamed. "Are you fucking nuts? Open the door!"
Coughing, he stepped back and lunged forward, his shoulder crashing against the door. Pain zinged across his collarbone, but he didn't care. The door opened an inch. He shoved it with the heels of his hands. There was something in the way. Something outside the door. Too heavy to move. Through the gap, flames and smoke and heat rushed in, scorching his face and hands, stinging his eyes. He smelled singed hair and the cotton fabric of his shirt. He stumbled back, stunned by the scope of the fire, disbelieving that she would be so irresponsible. That this could be happening at all.
"Hey! Go get help!" Looking around wildly, he grabbed the bottle of wine, the only source of liquid, and thrust the open end toward the blaze. Wine splashed onto the fire and door, but it wasn't enough to douse the flames. The fire seemed to drink it in and ask for more.
Heat sent him back another step. Smoke poured through the gap, hot black ropes twisting and rising, taunting him, reaching for him. Yellow flames licked at the wood, growing and moving closer. Raising the crook of his arm to his face, he rushed the door, slammed his body against it. Heat seared his shoulder, the side of his face, his ear, but he didn't feel the pain. The lock had given way; he'd gained another inch. Hope leapt in his chest. But within seconds the opening ushered in a tidal wave of ferocious flames, hungry for fuel, gobbling up the dry wood, eating up the floor.
"Help me!" he screamed. "Fuck! Help!"
Smoke and fire streamed in through the gap. The heat scorched his face, set his lungs ablaze, stole all the air in the room. He could hear himself panting and gasping, every inhale like a hot poker shoved down his throat. Choking, he looked around, seeking something, anything, he could use to pound his way to freedom.
Through the thick smoke, he spotted the homemade saddle rack — dual two-by-fours formed into an inverted V and nailed to the wall. He shoved the saddle to the floor, raised his foot, and slammed his boot down on the boards. Nails screeched as they pulled from the wall, the rack slanting down. He stomped it again and the boards gave way, clattered to the floor. Another dizzying leap of hope as he snatched up one of the two-by-fours. Rushing the door, he swung the section of wood like a bat, slammed it against the door. Once. Twice.
On the third swing, the board tore through the wood. An instant of hope, and then fire burst through the hole, a roaring beast with flames tall enough to lick the ceiling.
Panic tore through him. The blaze was burning out of control. There were thirty bales of hay in the loft, dry as tinder and waiting to explode. If the fire reached that hay, he wouldn't make it out.
Choking and cursing, he stumbled back. Too much heat now. Too much smoke to breathe. Ripping off his T-shirt, he dropped to his knees and set the fabric over his nose and mouth. Lowering himself to the floor, he rolled onto his back, raised both legs and rammed his booted feet against the door. Once. Twice.
The door gave way. Wood and ash and sparks rained down on him, embers burning his bare chest and arms and face. A rush of superheated air washed over him. Acrid smoke in his mouth. In his eyes. Through the haze he saw glowing cinders on his jeans, the fabric smoldering, the searing pain of a dozen burns. He brushed frantically at the tiny coals, but there were too many. Too much heat. Not enough air to breathe. Dear God ... Fire burst into the room, a rabid, roaring beast that came down on top of him, tore into him with white-hot teeth. Smoke seared his face and neck and chest. The full force of his predicament slammed into him. He screamed, twisted on the floor, rolling and flailing, trying to get away from the pain, but there was no place to go.
His lungs were on fire, burning his lips, his teeth, his tongue. Air too hot to draw a breath. Blinded by smoke and heat. Eyes sizzling in their sockets. The smell of burning flesh in his nostrils. I'm dying, he thought, and he was incredulous that this could happen.
"Datt! Datt!" But the words were little more than muffled cries. He rolled, clawing at the flames crawling over his body, but he hit the wall, no place else to go. No escape.
He tried to scream, but his spit seemed to boil in his mouth, his tongue clogging it like a piece of cooked meat.
With a final hideous roar, the fire swept over him. Red-hot teeth tearing into him, chewing him up, grinding flesh and bone into a molten ooze, and sucking him into its belly.CHAPTER 2
When you're the chief of police in a small town, a call at four A.M.is never a good thing. As I roll over and reach for my cell, I'm anticipating news of a fatality accident or, God forbid, bad news about one of my officers or my family.
"Burkholder," I rasp.
"Sorry to wake you, Chief," comes the voice of my graveyard-shift dispatcher, Mona Kurtz. "I just took a call for a barn fire out at the Gingerich place. Thought you'd want to know."
I'm familiar with the Gingerich family. Miriam and Gideon are Amish and live on a small farm a couple miles out of Painters Mill. I don't know them well. They're a nice family and lead quiet lives. Last I heard, they still have four kids at home.
Getting my elbows beneath me, I scoot up to a sitting position. "Anyone hurt?"
"Not sure yet. I talked to one of the volunteer firefighters and he told me the family hasn't been able to account for their son, Danny."
A sense of dread sweeps over me as I throw off the quilt and set my feet on the floor. "Anyone mention the cause?"
"No one knows anything yet."
"I'm on my way."
I hit END as I rise and head to the closet for my uniform.
"What's up, Chief?"
In the light slanting out from my closet, I see my significant other, John Tomasetti, sit up and squint at the clock. His hair is mussed. Even in the dim light, I can see the overnight stubble on his jaw, concern sharp in his eyes.
"There's a fire out at the Gingerich farm," I tell him, shrugging into my shirt. "I got it covered. Go back to sleep."
It's always the first question asked by law enforcement. Property can be replaced. A life cannot. Grabbing my trousers, I walk over to the bed and step into them. "Teenage son is unaccounted for."
"Well, shit." He sits up, throws off the covers. "You want some company?"
"Or you could stay here and grab another couple hours of sleep."
"I don't have to be at the office until nine."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Gathering of Secrets"
Copyright © 2018 Linda Castillo.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoy the series
This is the first book I read by this author and I was blown away by the story. I did not know that t hi is was a series at first, but I was able to pick up on characters and did not feel that I missed anything by not reading any other books. This is definitely a page turner that keeps you guessing!
Always good and fast paced.
As good as all the others.
This was excellent. I am a faithful follower of Kate and the Painters Mill gang and I did not see everything in advance. Well done. I said reader beware because although this book can be easily read as a standalone, if you do you will want to go back to the beginning and read them all!
Look forward to the next one.
Loved the latest story in this series. Another thriller that kept you reading to the end. Loved this series!
I love her writing style. Always a great mystery. I would give her five stars, but for me the violence gets too graphic. It doesn't stop me from reading her great books as I just skip those paragraphs.
A perfect airplane read. A great surprise about Mona. I just wish Kate didn't always have to get injured to solve a crime.
Love this series. Couldn't put this one down.
I live where there are Amish all around me, makes me look at them differently.
Intriguing from page 1 to its final page! This novel leads the reader in one direction and then makes a sharp turn in another direction. Murder, suicide, likable and detestable characters, and Amish background pave the way for a suspenseful and satisfying reading experience.
Love all her books..cant wait for the next
A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo is the tenth A Kate Burkholder Novel. Kate Burkholder, the police chief for Painters Mill, gets a late night call about a barn on fire at the Gingerich’s. Kate arrives and is told that Daniel Gingerich is missing. It looks like an accidental barn fire until Daniel’s body is found inside the locked and barricaded tack room. Someone wanted to make sure that Daniel did not survive the fire. Kate begins her investigation, but the Amish in Painters Mill are less than forthcoming. Despite being raised Amish and having family in the community, Kate’s uniform and position holds her apart. She is determined, though, to find out who murdered Daniel and set fire to the Gingerich’s barn. The more Kate learns about Daniel, the more unsettled she feels. Can Kate break through the wall of silence to get the answers she needs? I do not recommend reading A Gathering of Secrets on its own. While it can be read alone, you will miss out on Kate’s backstory. Why she is no longer Amish, how she become the police chief, her relationship with John Tomasetti, and how she gets along with her family. In A Gathering of Secrets, we follow Kate as she delves into Daniel’s life. She gathers evidence, interviews family and friends, follows up on anonymous tips, etc. Kate finds herself once again in a situation that endangers her life. I am amazed that she allowed herself to fall for the one incident. Kate has enough experience to know better (I would say more but it would be a spoiler). A Gathering of Secrets contains good writing and I like Kate’s character. She is a strong, smart woman who does a difficult job. It cannot be easy being English in a community where you grew up Amish. I would like to see Kate grow more as a person. It is time for her to move beyond what happened to her as a teenager (she will never forget it, but she needs to find a way to deal with what happened to her so she can have a future). I was disappointed that A Gathering of Secrets is exactly like the nine books before it. The author seems to follow a formula for her books and she is sticking with it. The descriptions are the fire, the body and other crimes are vivid and explicit. There is an uncalled for amount of foul language as well. I liked that the author included different Amish sects (Beachy Amish and Swartzentruber) and explained the differences. The mystery had depth, but the solution was obvious. I kept hoping there would be a surprise/twist that would shock me. I was amazed at the amount of violence from non-violent people. My rating for A Gathering of Secrets is 3 out of 5 stars (it was okay). While I was not enamored with A Gathering of Secrets, I will read the next A Kate Burkholder Novel.
This book kept me on the edge of my seat. I couldn't put it down until I finished it.
You will have difficulty putting this book down once you start reading. It keeps you guessing until the very end. I highly recommend it.
One of her best!
Again Castillo takes us along on a mystery that has facets of Agatha Christie. Just when I thought I knew who done it, I was swept away by the possibilities. Castillo crafts a mystery that feels natural, without feeling contrived. She sweeps us along with gutsy emotions. Kate Burkholder’s insight to the Amish way of life gives Castillo’s books a richness lacking in some series featuring the same characters. Thank you, Linda Castillo, I await your next gift.
I love this series, the books just keep getting better! This is my favorite so far. Everyone I have recommended this series to has loved them all! Great characters and great storytelling! Highly recommend!
This is the tenth in the series and Linda Castillo stepped it up a notch. I was wondering if this series would burn itself out, but not so. In this story, a barn burns down and a young Amish man's body is discovered inside. As the fire inspector continues his investigation, it becomes obvious that this was intentional, and Daniel Gingerich was the intended victim. Who had motivation to kill this young man? Everyone Kate talks to seems to think he is a wonderful Amish man and son, yet others remain tight lipped. Who was Daniel Gingerich and what was his true self? As Kate Burkholder investigates, this case becomes very personal. Can she remain neutral enough to see justice done? If there was motivation, was it still a crime? This book gives us another look at Kate's past and how it affects her now. I like that her relationship with Tomasetti is growing and changing. The inside glimpses and beliefs of the Amish community are insightful and interesting. With Kate no longer being part of the Amish Community, this book really showed how the police force is her new community and how they support one another. As a mother, I wondered, how far I would go to protect my child(ren). This case will take a few turns before coming to a satisfying though sad ending. As always, Linda Castillo presents the reader with a well written and plotted story. I enjoy the balance between crime and personal life. It is nice to connect with the protagonist and wish that you got a chance to meet them. If you enjoy mysteries or crime stories with a personal twist, pick up this book or any in this series. The publisher, St. Martin's Press, provided me with a copy of this book to read. The opinions stated are my own.
Excellent read. Couldn’t put it down.
Did Not Disappoint! This story pulled me in from the beginning, the mystery and secrets kept me turning pages. It was a journey into a world that I have always been curious about but had never read about. The story line is full of secrets and a tight community that doesn’t trust outsiders, even when they used to be a part of it. The characters are well-developed and the twists will keep you guessing. This is my first experience with Linda Castillo and Chief Kate Burkholder, though it is book 10 in the series, and I thoroughly enjoyed the foray, so much that I will be looking into earlier novels, as well as waiting to see what happens in the next installment. #AGatheringofSecrets #MinotautrBooks
Hard hitting in your face action from the beginning gives this book a punch into the world of secrets and discoveries in a small community of the Amish . I was shocked at the opening pages and wondered where the story was heading. I must say it was realistic and opens the door to something that happens more often than we know. I loved how the author weaved the characters together to a place were they connected in a way that unleashes terror in a small town. The fire that was mysterious started in a barn takes the life of Daniel Gingerich. He was respected in the community and seemed to be a good kid. As the story progresses, the dark hidden side of Daniel starts to emerge. I was so upset reading what this young man did , I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. I wonder how much of this is done that is never reported? When the investigation continues into his death, people aren't so free with information. It has always surprised me that the Amish don't really like the police and would rather keep things within the community. Kate is having a hard time piecing together who killed Daniel. One thing is clear however; Daniel has led a double life and it seems to have caught up with him. I loved how strong Kate is and her unique way of getting information. She is sharp and very intuitive. There is a bit of strong language in the book, but don't let that stop you from reading a chilling, well written story that explodes with suspects and secrets that will shock a community to its core. Who killed Daniel Gingerich? The ending is powerful and I was very surprised at who the guilty person was.This is one of the author's best books written to date. Grab a copy and find out what secrets can get a person killed. I received a copy of this book from the author. The review is my own opinion.