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**AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER (July 2017)**
In Down a Dark Road, the electrifying new thriller in Linda Castillo's New York Times bestselling series, a convicted murderer is on the run and Chief of Police Kate Burkholder must catch him before he strikes again.
"Murder in Amish country has a certain added frisson, and Castillo’s the master of the genre.” People magazine
“Castillo weaves the particularities of the Amish mindset into a complex mystery that will leave you crying with pity or seething with rage.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Two years ago, Joseph King was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison. He was a “fallen” Amish man and a known drug user with a violent temper. Now King has escaped, and he’s headed for Painters Mill.
News of a murderer on the loose travels like wildfire, putting Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and her team of officers on edge. But this is personal for Kate. She grew up with Joseph King. As a thirteen year old Amish girl, she’d worshipped the ground he walked on. She never could have imagined the nightmare scenario that becomes reality when King shows up with a gun and takes his five children hostage at their Amish uncle’s farm. Armed and desperate, he has nothing left to lose.
Fearing for the safety of the children, Kate makes contact with King only to find herself trapped with a killer. Or is he? All King asks of her is to help him prove his innocenceand he releases her unharmed. Kate is skeptical, but when the facts and the evidence don’t align, she begins to wonder who she should trust. Spurned by some of her fellow cops, she embarks on her own investigation only to unearth an unspeakable secretand someone who is willing to commit murder to keep it buried.
About the Author
Linda Castillo is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder novels, including Sworn to Silence which was recently 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
The Tuscarawas covered bridge is a Painters Mill icon. In spring and summer, tourists flock to the little-used back road for photos, for lunch with the grandkids, or just to spend a few minutes strolling the ancient wooden structure to ponder who might've walked the very same spot a hundred and fifty years earlier. Couples have been married here. Children have been conceived. High school yearbook photographs have been snapped. The Amish regularly set up their wagons on the gravel pullover to sell baked goods and fresh vegetables to Englischers anxious to fork over their cash for a sampling of the plain life.
I've passed through the old bridge a thousand times over the years, and I'm ever cognizant of its beauty, its historic significance, and its importance to the tourism segment of the town's economy. The magnitude of the latter echoed loud and clear in Mayor Auggie Brock's voice when he called me earlier this morning. In addition to the bridge being a favorite of locals and tourists alike, the place has recently become the target of graffiti artists and home base for a multitude of other illicit activities. I know that by the end of the day I'll have the town council breathing down my neck.
I park in the gravel pullover, take a final swig of coffee, and shut down the engine. As I get out of my city-issue Explorer, the whooit-whooit-whooit of a lone cardinal echoes among the treetops of the hardwoods that flourish in the greenbelt of the Painters Creek floodplain. Through misty shafts of sunlight, I see the footpath that leads down to the water's edge.
My boots crunch through gravel as I approach the bridge. Shadows envelop me as I start across it. The smells of ancient wood, the muddy dankness of the creek below, and new spring foliage greet me as I traverse the structure. Pigeons coo from the rafters above, their droppings marring the sills of the half dozen windows that run the length of it.
I'm midway across when I spot the graffiti. A tinge of indignation rises in my chest at the utter mindlessness of it. It's the usual fare. Fuck you. Eat me. Panthers suck. (Panthers being the name of the high school football team.) There's even a swastika. All of it haphazardly spray-painted in colors ranging from royal blue to safety orange. To my relief, there are no gang symbols. That's one segment of the criminal element that hasn't reached Painters Mill despite the recent emergence of a booming meth trade.
I cross to the nearest window and look down at the creek fifteen feet below. The moss-green water swirls as it meanders south. I see the silver flash of a sunfish. Large stones a few feet beneath the surface. The olive-green hues of the deeper pools in the center of the creek. I know the depth there because eighteen years ago, I jumped from this very window on a dare. I walked home in a soaking-wet dress and stinking of creek water. Mamm didn't understand why I did it, but she allowed me to change clothes before my datt came in from the field. She knew that sometimes his punishments were too harsh for the crime.
A pigeon takes flight as I reach the opposite end of the bridge, the high-pitched whistle of wings harmonizing with the birdsong in the forest. I turn and look down the length of the bridge. Beyond, my Explorer bakes in the sun, the engine ticking as it cools, heat tendrils rising off the hood like steam from a cup.
I should be baffled by the advent of graffiti in such a revered, bucolic place, but I'm not. I might've grown up Amish, but I was not as separate from the rest of the world as my parents wanted to believe. I was certainly not immune to bad behavior. For a short period of time, I was one of those mindless, angry teens, bent on making my mark — any mark — however self-defeating or destructive.
I stroll to the center of the bridge, look up at the rafters where a huge red swastika grins down at me. I shake my head in disgust, imagining some drunken idiot standing in the bed of a pickup truck, a can of spray paint in hand and a head full of rocks. Whoever did this wasn't in any hurry; they took their time and reached places that required some effort.
I continue on to the other side of the bridge and I can't help but wonder about all the things this place has witnessed over the years. When I was a kid, my grossmuder told me some places have memories. At the time I didn't have a clue what she was talking about and I didn't necessarily care. Only now, as an adult, do I appreciate her wisdom.
As I pass by one of the windows, my eyes are drawn to the dozens of initials carved into the ancient oak beams and planks. Most of them have been painted over multiple times. A few of the initials are familiar to me. My own, along with those of my one-time best friend, Mattie, are there somewhere, though for the life of me I can't remember where.
I'm standing at the window with my elbows on the sill when the sound of an approaching vehicle draws me from my reverie. Straightening, I glance over to see the mayor's Cadillac coupe pull up behind my Explorer. The driver's-side door opens and the mayor struggles out and slams it behind him.
Leaving thoughts of the past behind, I start toward him. "Morning, Auggie."
"Hey, Chief." Mayor Auggie Brock is a corpulent man with hound-dog jowls and eyebrows invariably neglected by his barber. He's wearing a JCPenney suit with a lavender shirt that's already wrinkled and a tie I wouldn't wish on anyone.
"Sorry I'm late." Holding a tall coffee cup from LaDonna's Diner, he enters the bridge. "Got caught up in a council meeting already. Would have ended an hour ago if Janine Fourman hadn't gone on about this graffiti problem. The woman can talk a blue streak."
Thinking of Councilwoman Turner, I frown. She and I have gone a few rounds over the years and not a single one of them was pleasant. "You have my sympathy."
He stops next to me. I can smell the coffee in his cup and the Polo aftershave he slapped on after his morning shower. He's a scant inch shorter than me and looks as harried as a fox surrounded by hounds.
"The director of the historical society was there, too, Kate. Needless to say, she was not a happy camper." Looking past me, he gestures so abruptly some of the coffee squirts from the opening of his cup. "Did you see all of it?"
"Kind of hard to miss."
He slants me a look as if trying to decide if I'm messing with him. Which I am. Usually, even when we're dealing with some unpleasant topic or problem, I can drag a smile out of him. This morning he doesn't bite.
"For God's sake, swastikas?" he says. "Who the hell does stuff like that?"
"Young people with too much time on their hands." I shrug. "Too little responsibility or guidance or both."
"Don't kids have jobs anymore?" He strides to the window and gestures at a particularly vulgar carving. "Kate, we just spent eight thousand dollars painting this bridge for the second time in three years. We don't have the budget to do it again. The folks over at the historical society are shitting bricks."
"I understand," I say diplomatically.
"We've got to put a stop to the graffiti. I mean, for chrissake, the elementary schools bring little kids here for field trips. Can you imagine a kindergartner seeing some of those four-letter words? I didn't know what that word meant until I was in the army. Good God, some six-year-old starts talking like that and we'll probably get sued and then where will we be?"
"Auggie, we might be able to get some volunteers out here to paint over the damage," I offer. "I know some of my guys would show. We can get this covered up."
"It's those little shits out at the Maple Crest subdivision," he grumbles. "Those high school kids have no respect. I think we need to make some kind of stand here, Kate. Some kind of concerted effort to catch them."
"I could sic Pickles on them," I say. My most senior officer, Roland "Pickles" Shumaker, has a reputation for taking a hard line with anyone under thirty. It was a running joke up until a year ago when he handcuffed a twelve-year-old boy for tossing a pop bottle out the window of a moving vehicle. The boy just happened to be the grandson of Councilwoman Fourman, who failed to see the humor.
"You can't be —" Realizing I'm kidding, he bites off the words and gives up a chuckle. "I'm glad one of us has a sense of humor about this."
"I can step up patrols. Work with County, persuade Sheriff Rasmussen to do the same."
"That's a start, Kate. I want those little bastards caught. I want them arrested. Forty hours of community service ought to show them the error of their ways. Let's see how they like spending their Saturdays out here painting over swastikas."
I consider pointing out the fact that the last time I caught someone out here defacing the covered bridge — a senior at Painters Mill High and a football player to boot — the boy's parents lodged a complaint and eventually the charges were dropped. But I don't mention it. It's part of being a small-town cop. It's my job to arrest people for breaking the law. The rest is up to the courts. I'd just as soon stay out of any back scratching that happens along the way.
Making a sound of irritation, Auggie crosses to one of the ancient oak beams and slaps his hand against the wood. "Could you imagine driving all the way from Columbus for some wholesome sightseeing and instead getting that?"
"There are quite a few teenagers out here just about every weekend," I tell him. "I'll park an officer down the road at that little turnaround. If we can catch them in the act and make an example of them, it'll stop."
Even as I say the words, we both know it will be me who parks down the road and stays up all night. My small police department consists of only four full-time officers, including me. Pickles is getting on in years and went part-time last summer. That's not to mention my budget, which leaves me no funds for overtime. And even if we're lucky enough to catch some numbskull artiste in the act, chances are — if he or she is a juvenile — Judge Siebenthaler will cave when the parents complain.
I make eye contact with Auggie. "I wouldn't be doing my due diligence as chief if I didn't remind you that a budget for OT would be helpful."
He makes a face I can't quite decipher. "I know you're operating with a skeleton crew, Kate. You know I'm in your corner. I've been trying for years to get the council to increase your budget. Rest assured, I've got the bean counters working on it."
That's one of the things I like about Auggie Brock. While he is a political animal, I know he cares.
"In the interim," he says, "let's get some volunteers out here."
I nod. "I bet Jim over at the hardware store will donate the paint."
"Good thinking," Auggie says. "Jim and I are in Rotary together, so let me get with him on that."
My phone chooses that moment to erupt. I check the display. Curiosity sparks when ODRC pops up on the screen. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.
"I gotta take this," I tell Auggie.
He looks at his watch. "I've got a meeting, anyway."
"Don't forget to talk to Jim." Giving him a wave, I turn away and answer with, "Burkholder."
"This is Jerry Murphy, Chief Burkholder. I'm the deputy warden out at Mansfield."
The Mansfield Correctional Institution is a maximum-security state prison about a hundred miles north of Painters Mill.
"What can I do for you?" I ask.
"There was a security breach involving an inmate last night," the deputy warden tells me. "You're on our notify list, Chief Burkholder."
A notify list contains the names of individuals — law enforcement, officers of the court, witnesses that testified during trial, family members, and victims — that are to be contacted when the status of an inmate changes. For example, when an inmate is paroled. I suspect this call has nothing to do with a formal discharge.
"Who?" I ask.
The name impacts my brain with a solid punch that leaves me breathless. I was eight years old when I met Joseph. He was Amish and lived on the farm next to ours. My older brother, Jacob, and sometimes my sister, Sarah, and I would meet Joseph and his two brothers after our chores were finished. There was a wooded area and a creek between our farms — prime real estate for a group of bored Amish kids.
Joseph was full of mischief, a born explorer, and a master teller of tall tales. He was funny and ornery and always ready for fun and games. Even with our many chores, we somehow always found time to play. Cowboys and Indians in the woods. A swim in the deep part of the creek. When I was nine, Joe set up a baseball diamond in a paddock, and I learned how to play baseball. In winter, we'd meet at nearby Miller's Pond to skate. When I was ten years old, Joseph taught me how to play hockey. I was competitive for an Amish girl — a trait that was frowned upon by my datt and brother. Not Joe. He liked me all the more because I was a tomboy, a sore loser, and I never shied away from a little rough-and-tumble.
I was twelve when I fell in love with him. It was an innocent Amish-girl crush, but to me it was a mile wide and as deep as the ocean. I never told a soul; not even my best friend. It was my secret, and I held it tightly. But it was the first time I had my breath taken away by a boy. It was my first bittersweet taste of love, and it was as powerful and formative as my first steps.
Joseph's datt was killed that fall when a drunk driver plowed into his buggy. He stopped coming over, and I didn't see him much after that. But I heard the stories. The rumors that said he'd lost his way. He'd lost the light in his eyes and opened his heart to some waiting darkness I had no concept of. They said he'd traded his happy-go-lucky persona in for a new model of brooding — and sometimes rage.
Two years ago, I received word that Joseph King had shot and killed his wife in their farmhouse while she slept. I'm not easily shocked, but I had a difficult time believing that the boy I'd once known could partake in such a vicious act. I'd actually been tempted to go see him, but life intervened and I never got around to it. I followed the media blitz of a trial. In the end, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
"Chief Burkholder? You still there?"
The deputy warden's voice jerks me from my reverie. "Yeah." I mumble something about our connection. "What happened with King?" I ask.
"He escaped custody sometime after headcount last night and as of this time, we've not been able to locate him."
I almost can't believe my ears. It's rare for an inmate to escape. There are too many layers of security and even more in the way of checks and balances. Without help from the outside, it's an almost impossible feat.
"I was on the notify list?" I ask.
"That's correct," he replies. "He's got ties to Painters Mill."
After Joseph's conviction, I remember hearing that his five children went to live with his wife's sister here in Painters Mill. "Rebecca and Daniel Beachy adopted them."
"Since the kids are living near your jurisdiction, we wanted to give you a heads-up in case he tries to make contact. We'll be notifying Holmes County, too." He pauses. "I understand you're part of the Amish community there."
"I used to be," I tell him. "I know where the Beachys live. They don't have a phone, so I'll drive over and let them know about King."
"Has King made any threats against any of them?" I ask, knowing that when kids are involved, emotions can run high.
"Not that I know of," he tells me. "That doesn't mean he won't try to make contact. Or harm them or the family. From what I've heard, Joseph King is a cold-blooded son of a bitch."
The words disturb me more than they should. In some small part of my brain, I still think of him as the footloose boy who couldn't bring himself to scale a fish without first knocking it unconscious.
"We've got a BOLO out with the highway patrol. Richland County Sheriff's Department is all over this. We got dogs on scene. I suspect BCI will get involved, too."
Which means that my live-in lover, BCI agent John Tomasetti, will be getting a call, too, if he hasn't already.
"Can you text or e-mail me a recent photo of King?" I rattle off my e-mail address.
"We're blasting his mug shot to all law enforcement agencies in the four-county area, including Cuyahoga."
Excerpted from "Down a Dark Road"
Copyright © 2017 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
Living in Amish country in northern Ashland county, Ohio and working 32 years as morning personality on 50kw country 101.3-FM I know the people of our community of North central Ohio that includes Holmes County and "Painter's Mill". This series gets better with each installment. Linda does her homework to give us intense, believable stories and makes us feel as though Kate, Tomasetti and Kate's staff are our friends and neighbors. Keep 'em coming Linda and thanks for great reading.
Another great Kate story. Not much else to say.
Brilliant as usual!
Linda Castillo keeps me on the edge of my seat with every book she writes! This one was exceptional! Lots of emotions played into this story: family, friends, truth and honesty, love, fear. I loved it. This book kept me up reading past my bedtime and I have neglected everything to finish it today!
Another great book in her Kate Burkholder series. Best to read in order! Loved the entire series!
Can’t get enough of KATE Burkholder!
Feel like I am in every scene watching everything first hand. Feel the pain and rightness when justice is met. Great writer that can bring me to tears.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! Took twists and turns I never expected and went into the dark side of human nature to tell a tale of survival.
I am hooked, and number 9 did not disappoint! realistic characters in believable situations. A page turner on the edge of my seat. can't wait for the next one
Enjoyed the way the storyline developed. When I started reading, I couldn't lay it down! Waiting for Linda's next book!
Love the Kate Burkholder series. So wish some of the language wasn't so rough?
No spoilers will be given. This was a well written book. As usual, the characters feel like real people. The pacing is smooth. One reviewer felt the plot was not as strong as those in previous books. To a degree, I agree with him or her. The idea was a solid one, but I did feel it was quickly obvious who, generally, the culprit(s) must be. This meant the high levels of tension and drama typical to all the previous books were not as prevalent or as intense in this book. The lack of explanation as to how the prisoner managed to escape felt like a missed opportunity for plot drama/interest. Also, I wondered about the repercussions of the Town Council's decision. Perhaps, though, that will be addressed in her next book. I give her previous books "A+'s". I give this one a "B". It's a good book, but it is just not up to her previous efforts. She set the bar very high with her previous books! Finally, I must ask, did the person who wrote the "Overview" actually read the book 1st?! The crime was committed 2 years, not 8 years, before the prisoner escaped. The rest of the "Overview" is messed up, too, but that is the most glaring and stupid error.
The information about the amish is fascinating
Once again great book I read it so fast I can't wait for the next one
Kate is courageous as usual. Remembrance of youthful times and the best times. Great mystery and action! Another story in the series please!
I absolutely adore this series. Have read every one of the Burkholder books & always look forward to each and every One! They never disappoint, awesome characters and story lines. If I could change anything, it would be that Linda Castillo writes more than one per year! It's so hard to wait so long for the next one! MJ Mason
This story was not as developed as some of the others in the series. Still a good read, but I feel it's somewhat predictable. I love the series and will continue to read them, but definitely one of the weaker story lines.
This series is excellent. I loved the chapters that went back to Kate's childhood. This time it's five stars!
Very moving and strong story, grabs you and makes you really care liked seeing glimpses of Chiefs childhood
I absolutely love Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder books. This is the 4th book I've read in the series with 2 others on my TBR list. I know that I am going to get an entertaining read filled with action, suspense and another view into the life of the Amish without any explicit sex scenes. This one did not fail, again. This one involves Kate's childhood friend, Jacob King, who she hasn't seen in 20 years. He was her first crush and he moved away when Katie was 14. When Kate discovers that Jacob has just escaped from prison, where he was serving a sentence for murdering his wife and that his children are in Painter's Mill, all sorts of memories come to mind. When ambushed by Jacob and held hostage, Kate talks with Jacob and listens to his story that "he did not kill his wife". This is further confirmed by his five year old daughter, Sadie, who says it wasn't her datt (dad) she saw standing by her parent's bed that night. Kate is released, but not without controversy. One that puts her reputation on the line by her police cohorts, the town council and the public eye. A book full of action, suspense and remnants of Kate's past that I found very entertaining and one that I could not put down. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Wow, this was one of the best Kate Burkholder books yet. I did not want to put it down to go to bed. Linda Castillo has the knack of writing about the Amish and Englischer divide as well as weaving them together living in the same area of Ohio. The plot in this story moved you quickly between past reminiscences and the present. The book opens with Kate getting a call about an escaped convict that might be headed to her area. It is Joseph (Joe) King who used to be her childhood friend and first crush. Two years earlier he was charged with killing his wife Naomi and spent the last year in prison. He heads to Painter's Mill because his children are living there with his sister-in-law and her husband. As Kate is patrolling the area, she comes across an abandoned car. Following the trail, she is ambushed by Joe, has her sidearm taken and is held hostage for a period of time. Kate tries to use her personal connection with him to solve the issues without any fatalities. His request for her, is to find out who killed his wife. He insists he is innocent and that his youngest daughter, Sadie, saw an intruder in the house. He then lets her leave. Who really killed Naomi? Can the standoff end without any fatalities? Can Kate help Joe without putting herself in danger? With all the family drama and sadness going on, this was an exceptional mystery. Kate had her hands tied investigating something outside her jurisdiction but her guts and moral compass kept her going until she found a resolution. A great story for any mystery, suspense and/or crime/detective lover. A must read. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Like all of the previous books in this series very heart wrenching but hard to put down