Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder Series #8)

Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder Series #8)

by Linda Castillo

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Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder Series #8) by Linda Castillo


Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called upon by the sheriff’s department in rural upstate New York to investigate the death of a young girl in a reclusive Amish settlement. Unable to penetrate the wall of silence between the Amish and the “English” communities, the sheriff asks Kate to pose as an Amish woman and find out what really happened.
“Razor-sharp. .compelling. . .exquisite.”—Criminal Element

Kate, who grew up among the Amish, knows what she’s doing. . .and what she’s in for. Her longtime love interest, State Agent John Tomasetti, is dead-set against her taking on the assignment, but Kate can’t turn her back—especially when the rumor mill boils with disturbing accounts of other children in danger.Once she goes deep undercover and infiltrates the community, she Kate unearths a world built on secrets and lies, and a series of crimes more shocking than she could have ever imagine. And soon she finds herself helpless and alone, cut off from the rest of the world. . .and trapped in a fight for her life.

“Readers will be enthralled…”—Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250130242
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/27/2017
Series: Kate Burkholder Series , #8
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 49,383
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

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

Among the Wicked

By Linda Castillo

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Linda Castillo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6727-7


Dusk arrives early and without fanfare in northeastern Ohio in late January. It's not yet five P.M. and already the woods on the north side of Hogpath Road are alive with shadows. I'm behind the wheel of my city-issue Explorer, listening to the nearly nonexistent activity on my police radio, uncharacteristically anxious for my shift to end. In the field to my left, the falling snow has transformed the cut cornstalks to an army of miniature skeletal snowmen. It's the first snow of what has been a mild season so far, but with a low-pressure system barreling down from Canada, the situation is about to change. By morning, my small police department and I will undoubtedly be dealing with a slew of accidents, hopefully none too serious.

My name is Kate Burkholder and I'm the chief of police of Painters Mill, Ohio, a township of just over 5,300 souls, half of whom are Amish, including my own family. I left the fold when I was eighteen, not an easy feat when all I'd ever known was the plain life. After a disastrous first year on my own in nearby Columbus, I earned my GED and landed an unlikely part-time job: answering phones at a police substation. I spent my evenings at the local community college, eventually earning an associate's degree in criminal justice. A year later, I graduated from the police academy and became a patrol officer. Over the next six years, I worked my way up to homicide detective and became the youngest female to make the cut.

When my mamm passed away a couple years later, I returned to Painters Mill, my past, and my estranged Amish family. The police chief had recently retired and the town council and mayor — citing my law enforcement experience and my knowledge of the Amish culture — asked me to fill the position. They'd been looking for a candidate who could bridge a cultural gap that directly affected the local economy. My roots had been calling to me for quite some time, and after weeks of soul-searching, I accepted the position and never looked back.

Most of the Amish have forgiven me the transgressions of my youth. I may be an Englischer now, but when I smile or wave, most return the gesture. A few of the Old Order and Swartzentruber families still won't speak to me. When I greet them — even in my first language of Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch — they turn away or pretend they didn't notice. I don't take it personally. I like to call that part of my repatriation a work in progress.

My own family wasn't much different at first. Early on, my sister and brother would barely speak to me. In keeping with the Anabaptist tenet of excluding the wicked from the group, they'd effectively excommunicated me. We're still not as close as we once were; chances are we'll never again find the special bond we shared as children. But we've made headway. My siblings invite me into their homes and take meals with me. It's a trend I hope will continue.

I'm anticipating the evening ahead — a quiet dinner at the farm where I live with my lover, John Tomasetti. He's also in law enforcement — an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. I love him, and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. Like any couple, we've encountered a few bumps along the way, mostly because of our pasts — both of which are slightly checkered. But he's the best thing that's ever happened to me, and when I think of the future, it makes me happy to know he's part of it.

I'm doing fifty, headlights on, wipers making a valiant attempt to keep the snow at bay. I've just crested the hill at the intersection of County Road 13 when the buggy materializes out of nowhere. I cut the wheel hard to the left and stomp the brake. The Explorer fishtails, but I steer into the skid. For an instant, I think I'm going to plow into the back of the buggy. Then the tires catch asphalt and my vehicle comes to an abrupt halt on the gravel shoulder on the opposite side of the road.

I sit there for a moment, gripping the wheel, waiting for the adrenaline to subside. Several thoughts strike my brain at once. I didn't see the buggy until I was nearly upon it. The accident would have been my fault. Everyone on board probably would have been injured — or worse.

Through the passenger side window, I see the horse come to a stop. Flipping on my overhead emergency lights, I back up so that I'm behind the buggy to protect it from oncoming traffic. I grab my Maglite from the seat pocket and get out, noticing immediately that there's no lantern or reflective signage anywhere on the buggy.

The driver exits as I approach. I keep my beam low to avoid blinding him as I take his measure. Male. Six feet tall. Mid-thirties. Black jacket. Black, flat-brimmed hat. Matching steel-wool beard that hangs to his belly. His clothes, along with the fact that the buggy is without a windshield, tell me he's Swartzentruber. I've seen him around town, but I've never spoken to him. I don't know his name.

"Guder Ohvet," I begin. Good evening.

He blinks, surprised that I speak Pennsylvania Dutch, and responds in kind.

Leaning forward slightly, I shine my beam into the buggy. A thirtyish Amish woman, also clad in black, and six children ranging in age from infant to preteen are huddled in the rear, their legs covered with two knitted afghans. The woman is holding a baby. Dismay swirls in my gut when I'm reminded how this could have turned out.

"And Wie bischt du heit?" I ask the woman. How are you today?

She averts her gaze.

"Miah bin zimmlich gut," comes the man's voice from the front. We are good.

When dealing with the Amish in an official capacity, particularly the Old Order or Swartzentruber, I always make an effort to put them at ease before getting down to police business. Smiling at the woman, I lean back and address the man. "Sis kald heit." It's cold today.


"What's your name, sir?"

"Elam Shetler."

"Do you have an ID card, Mr. Shetler?"

He shakes his head. "We are Swartzentruber," he tells me, as if that explains everything.

To me, it does. The Amish don't drive; if they need to travel a long distance, they hire a driver. Most do not have driver's licenses, but apply for DMV-issued ID cards. Not so with the Swartzentruber, whose belief system prevents them from having their photographs taken.

"Mr. Shetler, I came over that hill and didn't see your buggy." I motion toward the vehicle in question. "I couldn't help but notice you don't have a lantern or reflective signage."

"Ornamentation," he mutters in Pennsylvania Dutch.

"I nearly struck your buggy." I nod toward his wife and children. "Someone could have been seriously injured."

"I trust in God, not some Englischer symbol."

"Ich fashtay." I understand. "But it's the law, Mr. Shetler."

"God will take care of us."

"Or maybe He'd prefer you put a slow-moving vehicle sign on your buggy so you and your family live long, happy lives."

For an instant he's not sure how to respond. Then he barks out a laugh. "Sell is nix as baeffzes." That is nothing but trifling talk.

"The Revised Ohio Code requires reflective signage on all slow-moving vehicles." I lower my voice. "I was there the night Paul Borntrager and his children were killed, Mr. Shetler. It was a terrible thing to behold. I don't want that to happen to you or your family."

I can tell by the Amish man's expression that my words are falling on deaf ears. His mind is made up, and he won't change it for me or anyone else. I'm trying to decide whether to cite him when my phone vibrates against my hip. I glance down to see Tomasetti's number on the display.

Opting to call him back, I return my attention to Shetler. "Next time I see you on the road without the proper signage," I tell him, "I will cite you. You will pay a fine. Do you understand?"

"I believe we are finished here." Turning away, he climbs back into the buggy.

I stand on the shoulder, listening to the jingle of the horse's harness and the clip-clop of shod hooves as he guides the buggy back onto the asphalt and drives away.

Snow falls softly on my shoulders. The cut cornstalks whisper at me to let it go. "Jackass," I mutter.

I'm sliding behind the wheel when my radio cracks. "Chief?" comes the voice of my second-shift dispatcher.

I pick up my mike. "What's up, Jodie?"

"You've got visitors here at the station."

"Visitors?" For an instant I envision my sister or brother sitting in the reception area, feeling out of place while they wait for me to show. "Who is it?"

"Agent Tomasetti, some suit from BCI, and an agent from New York."

My memory pings. Tomasetti had mentioned a few days ago that the deputy superintendent wanted to talk to me about an investigation. But the meeting hadn't yet been scheduled and he didn't have any details. Odd that they would drop by after hours on a snowy afternoon without giving me a heads-up. Even more unusual that one of the men is from New York.

"Any idea what they want?" I ask.

"I don't know, but they look kind of serious, Chief." She lowers her voice to a whisper. "Like there might be something big going on."

"Tell them I'll be there in ten minutes." Perplexed, trying not to be aggravated, I put the Explorer in gear and start toward the station, hoping Elam Shetler and his family make it home safely.

* * *

I arrive at the station to find Tomasetti's Tahoe and an unmarked brown Crown Vic with New York plates parked next to my reserved spot. There's already a dusting of snow on the vehicles. I park and hightail it inside. When I enter reception, I find my second-shift dispatcher, Jodie, sitting at her desk, eyes closed, drumming her palms against her desktop to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."

Usually, her workaday antics are a source of entertainment for all of us. Since we have official visitors this afternoon, I'm not quite as amused. I'm midway to her desk when she opens her eyes. She starts at the sight of me, then quickly turns off the radio. "Hey, Chief."

I pluck messages from my slot. "Any idea where our visitors are?"

"Agent Tomasetti's showing them the jail in the base —"

"Right here, Chief," comes Tomasetti's voice from the hall.

He's still clad in the charcoal suit and lavender tie he put on at seven this morning. He's wearing his professional face, no smile for me, and I know this isn't a happenstance visit. The two men coming down the hall behind him aren't here for a tour of my single-cell basement jail.

"Hi ... Agent Tomasetti." It's a ridiculously formal greeting considering we've been living together for over a year.

"Hi." Two strides and he extends his hand. "Sorry for the last-minute notice."

"No problem. I was on my way here anyway."

"Heavy weather in store for New York tomorrow," he explains. "Investigator Betancourt wants to drive back tonight, before the roads get too bad."

"Long drive." I turn my attention to the two men coming up beside Tomasetti. I don't recognize either of them, but I can tell by their demeanors that they're law enforcement. Overly direct gazes. Suits off the rack. Taking my measure with a little too much intensity. Grim expressions that relay nothing in terms of emotion or mood. That cop attitude I know so well. I catch a glimpse of a leather shoulder holster peeking out from beneath the taller man's jacket.

Tomasetti makes introductions. "This is Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Bates with BCI." He motions to a tall, lanky man with an angular face and skin that's deeply lined, probably from years on the golf course. Blue eyes behind square-rimmed glasses. Hairline just beginning to recede. The slight odor of cigarettes he tried to mask with chewing gum and cologne.

I extend my hand. "Nice to meet you, Deputy Superintendent Bates."

He brushes off the formal title with a grin that belies an otherwise serious demeanor. "Larry, please." He has a firm grip. Dry palm. Quick release. "I patently deny whatever Tomasetti has told you about me."

I return the grin. "I hope so."

Tomasetti motions to the other man. I guess him to be about the same age as Bates. Conservatively dressed in a gray suit, white shirt, red tie, he looks more like a fed than a statie. He's not much taller than me, but he's built like a bulldog and has a face to match. Dark, heavy-lidded eyes just starting to go bloodshot. Five o'clock shadow. He's got long day written all over him.

"This is Frank Betancourt, senior investigator with the BCI division of the New York State Police."

I detect calluses on his hand when we shake, telling me he spends a good bit of his time at the gym lifting weights. His eyes are direct, and when I look at him, he holds my gaze.

"You're a long way from home," I tell him.

"That's not such a bad thing this time of year." His smile is an afterthought, his jowls dropping quickly back into a frown.

A pause ensues. An awkward moment when no one says anything. And I realize that with the niceties out of the way, they're anxious to get down to business.

Bates rubs his hands together. "Can we have a few minutes of your time, Chief Burkholder? We've got a developing situation in upstate New York we'd like to discuss with you."

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Tomasetti scowl.

"We can talk in my office." I motion toward the door and lead the way inside. "Anyone want coffee?"

All three men decline, telling me they're seasoned enough to know that police stations and decent coffee is an oxymoron. Tomasetti and Bates settle into the visitor chairs adjacent to my desk. Betancourt chooses to stand and claims his place near the door.

I remove my coat, hang it on the rack next to the window, and slide into my chair. "It's not often that we have visitors from BCI or the New York State Police," I begin.

"Tomasetti tells me you used to be Amish," Bates says.

"I was. I was born here in Painters Mill to Amish parents, but I left when I was eighteen."

"You speak German?"

"Yes, I'm fluent in Pennsylvania Dutch." For the first time, a tinge of annoyance nips at me. I feel as if I'm being held in suspense; they want something but they're being coy about tipping me off because they suspect I may refuse. I wish they'd stop beating around the bush and get to the point. "What exactly can I do for you?"

Bates looks at me over the tops of his glasses. "A couple months ago, the sheriff up in St. Lawrence County — Jim Walker — contacted the state police for help with a developing situation inside an Amish community." He motions to Betancourt. "Frank was assigned the case and had been working with Jim. Two weeks ago, Jim suffered a heart attack. He's on leave and everything was sort of put on a back burner. Things heated back up three days ago when an Amish girl was found frozen to death in the woods a few miles from her home.

"This Amish settlement straddles two counties, St. Lawrence and Franklin, so we contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and brought in Sheriff Dan Suggs. It didn't take them long to realize neither agency had the resources to see this thing through."

The state police usually have a pretty decent budget and resources galore with which to assist small-town law enforcement. In this case, however, the police lab and databases are not the kinds of investigative tools the sheriff needs. And for the first time I know what they want from me.

"We're familiar with some of the cases you've worked here in Painters Mill, Chief Burkholder," Bates tells me. "You've done some impressive police work." He slants a nod at Tomasetti. "I talked to John about your particular skill set, and I thought you might be able to assist with this case."

Bates motions to Betancourt. "Since Tomasetti and I are pretty much window dressing, I'll turn it over to Frank."

Betancourt comes to life. "On January twenty-first, a couple of hunters found the body of fifteen-year-old Rachel Esh in the woods a few miles from where she lived."

His style differs greatly from Bates's, who seems more politician than cop, preferring to ease into a conversation with a joke and small talk. Not so with the senior investigator. While Bates is laid-back, Betancourt is intense and jumps into the discussion feetfirst. I get the impression he's not shy about ruffling feathers, either.

"What was the cause of death?" I ask.

"The autopsy showed she died of hypothermia due to exposure. There was a snowstorm. For some reason she was out in it and froze to death. ME ran a tox, which showed she had traces of OxyContin in her bloodstream at the time of her death."

"Odd for an Amish girl that age to have drugs in her system," I say. "Does the sheriff suspect foul play?"

"She got the drugs somewhere." Betancourt leans closer. "But even more perplexing is the fact that she'd recently been pregnant."

"Recently pregnant?" I look from man to man. "What do you mean?"

"During the autopsy, the ME found evidence that she'd recently lost a baby. Some fetal material had been left behind."


Excerpted from Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo. Copyright © 2016 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.

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Among the Wicked (Kate Burkholder Series #8) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding!!!The author just gets better with each book. I know once i buy one of her novels I know I will be sleep deprived for a coule of days, but so well worth it. Highly recommend. Also it will help if you start with he first in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I lost sleep because of this excellent book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down, fast moving! Cold and wicked bad!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author never dissapointed story grips u right away charecters are great the twists ....u don't see coming absolutely worth every penny....C.R.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of her books, can't wait till the next one comes out. This book gave us a look into the life of the Amish people. I've been to Lancaster Area of Pennsylvania and really enjoyed learning more of the culture of the Amish people. Really enjoyed this book and all her others. Keep them coming. THANKS!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There hasn't been a book written by her that I didn't like! Especially the Kate Buckholder series. As usual this book keeps you turning the page to see whats going to happen to Kate next!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wont criticize book, but where is the sample. Will NOT buy without a sample. Burned too many times. Do like this author. Kat
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down. Can't wait for new book in this wonderful series!
Anonymous 8 months ago
I have just finished the 8th one and have loved everyone of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am enjoying all of these books. I lived near Shipshiwana for about 30 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book hard to put down.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
I was so excited when I got approved for this book. I love Linda Castillo and her Kate Burkholder series. I know when I start it, I'm in for a great entertaining read. And, this one did not fail to live up to my expectations. As Kate goes undercover, she meets up with some really bad people who are in a religious community. Crazy!! It's a cult and these people are being bamboozled. The surprising shock is who and what's involved. I stayed up late to finish this one because I could not put it down. Yes, it was unputdowable!! And since my heart beat is still racing, I'm going to have to watch a little TV in order to sleep. A great book, a great story, great characters and a great author. I LOVED it!!! Thanks St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 8 months ago
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
I love the Kate Burkholder series. Linda Castillo pens a thriller that is hard to put down. With a strong, smart, gutsy female lead, this book leads you on an investigation involving the Amish Community. Kate is the police chief in the little town of Painters Mill, Ohio. She was raised in an Amish community but left the community to go to college and become a police officer. She speaks Pennsylvania Dutch so is able to speak and understand the Amish when they are involved in an investigation. She is out of her element in this story as she is asked to go undercover in an amish community in upstate New York. A young amish girl was found frozen to death, and the state police do not think it was an accident. She heads off and quickly begins to make inroads in the community. Someone notices her asking a lot of questions and they don't like it. Can she figure out what is going on with the Bishop before her cover is blown? This mystery builds slowly until it hits its crescendo then moves quickly to the end. Kate puts herself in danger once again to solve the crime and take down the villian. She insists she is a cop and will be able to protect herself. When she realizes that there are other people involved in the cover up, she is worried that this might be her last investigation. Tomasetti (her live-in boyfriend) does not play much of a role in this book, but he is there to be her sounding board and for her to call when she needs contact with her real life. I never imagined the twists this story was going to take. Another great addition to the Kate Burkholder series. If you enjoy a good crime/mystery/thriller, pick this one up, although you may want to start at the beginning if you have not read any in this series. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via netgalley.
JessLucy More than 1 year ago
Best in the series, and that's saying a lot. This author weaves excellent mysteries amd writes like a poet while doing so. Highly recommended series.
MusicInPrint More than 1 year ago
Kate Burkholder always scares me to death with her bravery and quest to protect. This is the 8th in this Amish Murder Series by Linda Castillo. Her writting is vivid and so good sometimes I almost slip off the end of my couch or bed which ever I am in. Never start one of her books during the week because you will miss work the next day staying up all night to consume every page. Kate is head of police in Painters Mill, Ohio where she spent her youth as Amish. Don't cheat yourself out of a fantastic crime drama but read this series from the beginning.
Kuzlin More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of the Kate Burkholder books from the beginning, but this was definitely the best yet. Kate is asked to go undercover at an Amish community in New York to learn the truth about a young girl's seemingly accidental death. She soon finds herself immersed in a community of secrets and an overall sense of wrongness, while dealing with her own conflicting memories and thoughts of the life she could have had. Good story with lots of action and interesting story twists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
I love this one as always. There were many twists and turns. This one was a little different from her other books in this series. I loved that she goes undercover as an Amish. I always look forward to reading more of these books.
Qnofdnile More than 1 year ago
I just love Kate Burkholder the town of Painter' Mill's Chief of Police and ex Amish. She gets a visit from the NY State Police and the town of Roaring Springs, NY and State Police of Ohio. They suspect abuse of children in the Amish compound in Roaring Springs. Kate is the only known person in law enforcement that speaks Pennsylvania Dutch. So they naturally need her help to find out what is going on. She goes there undercover, no electricity, etc. You will be surprised by what is going on. It is not what everyone thought it was. It's a must read for fans of Linda Castillo.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series and this one was particularly better than the last couple!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police of Painter's Mills, is asked to go undercover and help solve the murder of a 15-year old Amish girl in New York, she knows it is a job that only she can do. Posing as a recently widowed Amish woman looking to return to the old ways, Kate begins to establish herself within the Amish community. It doesn't take long until Kate realizes that there is something amiss within this Amish community - the people seem afraid and nervous, especially when the Bishop is mentioned. And Kate herself will learn that asking questions can get yourself in trouble that you didn't bargain for.
junebugSM More than 1 year ago
I would like to know why there is so many people with Anonymous? Makes me think that maybe this is rigged in order to get you to buy the book? I don't like buying alot of books with this type of reviews. Makes me wonder.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo is the eighth book A Kate Burkholder Novel series. Kate Burkholder is the chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio. Kate lives with her significant other, John Tomasetti who is also a state agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations. John has two people who would like to meet with Kate. Investigator Frank Betancourt and Deputy Superintendent Lawrence Bates from the BCI Division of the New York State Police. They need someone with Kate’s background and experience (in other words they want Kate) to help them with a case. There is a problem in an Amish community in Roaring Springs, New York. The problems started with the new bishop, Eli Schrock. A young Amish girl was found dead, but no one in the community will talk with the officers. The officers suspect children are also being harmed, but they cannot get anyone to talk or get evidence. They would like Kate to undercover into the community. Kate grew up Amish (knows how to dress, the routines, etc.) and speaks the language. She can join the community and find the answers they need. John does not want Kate to take the assignment since she will be alone (without backup). Kate cannot ignore people in danger and immediately starts making plans. Kate joins the Amish community as a widow who needs a change and a less progressive Amish group. Kate slowly makes friends and gathers information on what is happening in the Amish community of Roaring Springs. But what happens when Kate tries to get solid evidence? Will Kate make it back to Painters Mill and John alive? You will have to read Among the Wicked to find out! Among the Wicked is the best book in A Kate Burkholder Novel series (in my opinion). There were so many twists and surprises as Kate delved deeper into the community. There were a couple of slow places, but I was hooked (and stayed up late to finish the book). I give Among the Wicked 4.5 out of 5 stars (I liked it). I thought Among the Wicked was well-written and easy to read. The reader is drawn into the story and hooked. Kate can be very determined and stubborn, but that is what makes her a good police officer. There is some extreme violence in the book (just a little warning). While Among the Wicked is the eighth book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone. The author does a good job of letting the reader know the details about the characters (what has happened in the past novels). I cannot wait for the next book in this series. I received a complimentary copy of Among the Wicked from NetGalley (and the publisher) in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel. The opinions and comments expressed are strictly my own.