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One family. One horrific murder. An entire town under suspicion…
The Planks moved from Lancaster County Pennsylvania to the small Amish community of Painters Mill, hoping to resume the comforts of the Plain Life in Ohio. Less than one year later, the family of seven is found deadslaughtered on their own farm.
"Shades of In Cold Blood . . . Another chilling thriller."People magazine
Police Chief Kate Burkholder and her small force have few clues, no motive, and no suspect. Formerly Amish herself, Kate is no stranger to the secrets the Amish keep from their "English" neighborsand each other. When the diary belonging to the rebellious teenager Mary Plank turns up, Kate is surprised to find not only a kindred spirit but a murder suspect: the charismatic stranger who stole Mary's heart.
"Violent and earthy, and completely impossible to put down."BookPage
Then there's Mary's brother, Aaron. Shunned by his family and the rest of the Amish community, could he have returned to seek revenge? Now it's up to Kate to search for some dark truths about the Planksand confront long-buried secrets of her own. As Kate's obsession with the case grows so does her resolve to bring the killer to justiceeven if it means putting herself into the line of fire . . .
"Will appeal to fans of Karin Slaughter and Tami Hoag."Library Journal
About the Author
Linda Castillo is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder novels, including Sworn to Silence and Breaking Silence, crime thrillers set in Amish country. She is the recipient of awards including the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, the Holt Medallion and a nomination for the RITA. Besides writing, Castillo's other passion is horses, particularly her Appaloosa, George. She lives in Texas with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
PRAY FOR SILENCE (CHAPTER 1)
Officer Chuck "Skid" Skidmore wished he hadn't indulged in that last cup of coffee. If it wasn't for the new waitress at the diner, he would have stopped at just one. But damn she was cute. So he'd sat at the counter the entirety of his dinner break and sucked down caffeine like a ten-year-old gorging on Kool-Aid. Brandy obliged by keeping his mug full, and entertaining him with her twenty-something chitchat and a full two inches of jiggling cleavage.
He'd been eating at LaDonna's Diner every night for two months now, since the chief assigned him the graveyard shift. He hated working nights. He respected the chief, but he was going to have to have a talk with her about getting back on days.
Skid turned his cruiser onto Hogpath Road, a desolate stretch of asphalt bounded by Miller's Woods to the north and a cornfield on the south side. The cruiser's tires crunched over gravel as he pulled onto the shoulder. He was reaching for the pack of Marlboro Lights in the glove box when his radio crackled.
"Three-two-four. Are you 10-8?"
Mona was the third-shift dispatcher and his sole source of entertainment--after the diner closed, anyway. She'd kept him from dying of boredom many a night. "Roger that, Dispatch."
"So did you talk to her?"
"You ask her out?"
Throwing open his door to keep the smell of smoke out of the cruiser, Skid lit the Marlboro. "I don't see how that's any of your business."
"You're the one who's been talking about her for the last two months."
"She's too young for me."
"Since when does that make a difference?"
"You're tying up the radio."
Mona laughed. "You're chicken."
Wishing he'd never told her about his crush on Brandy, he drew on the cigarette. "Whatever."
"Are you smoking?"
He mouthed the word shit.
"You said you were going to quit."
"I said I was going to either quit drinking or smoking. I sure as hell ain't going to do both in the same week." He sucked in a mouthful of smoke. "Especially when I'm stuck working nights."
"Maybe the chief's still pissed about that old lady you roughed up."
"I didn't rough her up. That old goat was drunk out of her mind."
"She was sixty-two years old--"
"And naked as a jaybird."
Mona giggled. "You get all the good calls."
"Don't remind me. The sight of her wrinkled ass has damaged me for life." He sighed, his bladder reminding him why he'd stopped in the first place. "I gotta take a piss."
"Like I need to know that." She disconnected.
Grinning, Skid got out of the cruiser. The crickets went silent as he walked around to the bar ditch. Dry cornstalks crackled in a light breeze. Beyond, a harvest moon cast yellow light onto the tall grain silo and barn roof of an Amish farm. It was so quiet, he could hear the cacophony of frogs from Wildcat Creek a quarter mile to the south. Skid relieved himself and tried not to think about the long night ahead. Yeah, he was going to have a talk with the chief. Get back on days. He'd had enough of this vampire hours shit.
He was zipping up when a distant sound snagged his attention. At first he thought maybe a calf was bawling for its cow. Or maybe a dog had been hit by a car. But when the sound came again, he realized it wasn't either of those things. It was a man's scream. Looking out across the cornfield, he felt the hairs on his nape stand straight up.
Skid rested his hand on the .38 strapped to his hip. He scanned the field beyond where the corn whispered and sighed. Another scream sent a chill scraping up his spine. "What the hell?"
Yanking open the door of the cruiser, he leaned in and flicked on the strobes, then pulsed the siren a couple of times. He hit his lapel mike. "Mona, I'm out here at the Plank farm. I've got a 10-88." They used the ten-code radio system at the Painters Mill PD; 10-88 was the code for suspicious activity.
"What's going on?"
"Some crazy shit's screaming his head off."
"Well that's strange." She went silent for a moment. "Who is it?"
"I don't know, but I think it's coming from the house. I'm going to check it out."
Back in his cruiser, Skid turned into the long gravel lane that would take him to the house. The Planks were Amish. Generally, the Amish were quiet and kept to themselves. Most were up before the sun and in bed before most folks finished their suppers. Skid couldn't imagine one of them out this time of night, raising hell. Either some teenager on rumspringa--their "running around" time before joining the church--was drunk out of his head, or there'd been an accident.
He was midway down the lane when a figure rushed from the shadows. Skid braked hard. The cruiser slid sideways, missing a man by inches. "Holy shit!"
The man scrambled around the front of the cruiser, hands on the hood, eyes as big as baseballs. Skid didn't recognize him, but the full beard and flat-brimmed hat told him the guy was Amish. Setting his hand on his .38, Skid rammed the shifter into Park and got out of the cruiser. "What the hell are you doing? I almost hit you."
The man was breathing hard, shaking harder. In the moonlight, Skid saw sweat glistening on his cheeks, despite the October chill, and he wondered if the guy was high on drugs. "Mein Gott!"
Skid didn't understand Pennsylvania Dutch, the Amish dialect, but he didn't need to be fluent to know the guy was terrified. He didn't know what he'd walked into. The one thing he was certain of was that he wasn't going to let this cagey-looking sumbitch get any closer. As far as he knew, the guy was on crack and armed with a machete. "Stop right there, partner. Keep your hands where I can see them."
The Amish man put his hands up. Even from ten feet away Skid could see his entire body was trembling. His chest heaved. It was tears--not sweat--that glistened on his cheeks. "What's your name?" Skid asked.
"Reuben Zimmerman!" he choked.
The Amish man's eyes met his. Within their depths, Skid saw fear and the sharp edge of panic. The man's mouth worked, but no words came.
"You need to calm down, sir. Tell me what happened."
Zimmerman pointed toward the farmhouse, his hand shaking like a flag in a gale. "Amos Plank. The children. There is blood. They are dead!"
The guy had to be out of his mind. "How many people?"
"I do not know. I saw . . . Amos and the boys. On the floor. Dead. I ran."
"Did you see anyone else?"
Skid's gaze went to the darkened farmhouse. The place was silent and still. No lantern light in the windows. No movement. He hit his lapel mike. "Mona, I've got a possible 10-16 out here." A 10-16 was the code for a domestic problem. "I'm going to take a look."
"You still out at the Plank place?"
"You want me to call the sheriff's office and get a deputy out there?"
"I'm going to check it out first. Will you run Reuben Zimmerman through LEADS for me?" LEADS was the acronym for the Law Enforcement Automated Data System police departments used to check for outstanding warrants.
"Roger that." Computer keys clicked. "Be careful, will you?"
"You got that right."
Anxious to get to the scene, Skid approached the Amish man. "Turn around and put your hands against the car, partner."
Zimmerman looked bewildered. "I did not do anything wrong."
"It's procedure. I'm going to pat you down. The handcuffs are for your protection and mine. All right?"
As if realizing he didn't have a choice, Zimmerman turned and set his hands against the cruiser. Quickly, Skid ran his hands over the man, checking pockets, socks, even his crotch. Then he snapped the cuffs into place. "What are you doing here at this time of night?"
"I help with the milking. Work begins at four A.M."
"And I thought I had bad hours."
The Amish man blinked.
"Never mind." Opening the cruiser door, Skid ushered him into the backseat. "Let's go."
Sliding behind the wheel, he put the cruiser in gear and started toward the house. In the rearview mirror, dust billowed in the red glow of the tail-lights. Ahead, a massive barn and silo stood in silhouette against the predawn sky. The postcard perfect farm was the last place Skid expected any kind of trouble. He'd lived in Painters Mill for going on four years now. Aside from a few minor infractions--like that time two teenaged boys got caught racing their buggies down Main Street--the Amish were damn near perfect citizens. But Skid had been a cop long enough to know there was always an exception to the rule.
He parked behind a buggy, his headlights reflecting off the slow-moving-vehicle sign mounted at the rear. To his right, the house stood in shadows; it didn't look like anyone was up yet. Turning, he made eye contact with Zimmerman. "How did you get in?"
"The back door is unlocked," the Amish man said.
Grabbing his Maglite, Skid left the cruiser. He slid his .38 from its sheath as he started down the sidewalk. Stepping onto the stoop, he banged on the door with the flashlight. "This is the police," he called out. "Open up."
That was when he noticed the dark smear on the jamb. He shifted the flashlight beam and squinted. It looked like blood. A handprint. Skid shone the light down on the concrete porch. More blood. Black droplets glittering in the moonlight. Bloody footprints led down the steps to the sidewalk that led to the barn.
"Shit." Skid twisted the knob and opened the door. His heart rate kicked as he entered the kitchen. He could feel the burn of adrenaline in his midsection. Nerves running like hot wires beneath his skin. "This is the police," he called out. "Mr. and Mrs. Plank?"
The house was as silent and dark as a 1920s noir film. Skid wished for a light switch and cursed the Amish people's aversion to modern conveniences. Slowly, his eyes adjusted to the semidarkness. Gray light from the moon bled in through the window above the sink, revealing plain wood cabinets, a bench table draped with a blue-and-white checked tablecloth. A lantern sat cold and dark in its center.
"Hello? This is the police. Anyone home?" Midway through the kitchen, he noticed the unpleasant odor. Not spoiled food or garbage or pet smells. It was more like the plumbing in the bathroom had backed up.
Skid entered the living room. The stench grew stronger, pervasive. A chill crept up his spine when his beam illuminated the body. An Amish man wearing a blue work shirt, trousers and suspenders lay facedown in a pool of blood the size of a dinner plate.
Skid couldn't look away. The dead man had a horrific wound at the back of his head. Blood oozed from his left ear into his full beard and then trickled down to pool on the floor. His mouth was open and his bloody tongue protruded like a fat slug.
He hoped Zimmerman was wrong about the number of victims. He hoped the other lumps on the floor were piles of clothing in need of mending or maybe feed bags someone had brought in from the barn. That hope was dashed when the beam of his flashlight revealed two more bodies. A teenaged boy wearing dark trousers with suspenders. A little red-haired boy encircled by more blood than could possibly fit into his small body. Both boys had gunshot wounds to the head. Both had their hands bound behind their backs. Skid knew without checking that they were dead.
He'd been a cop for going on ten years, first in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and now here in Painters Mill. He'd seen death before. Traffic accidents. Shootings. Stabbings. None of those things prepared him for this.
"Holy Christ." He fumbled for his lapel mike, surprised when his hand shook. "Mona, I'm 10-23 at the Plank place. Call the chief. Tell her I've got a major fuckin' crime scene out here. A shooting with multiple vics. Fatalities." His voice broke. "Shit."
"Do you need an ambulance?"
He looked down at the staring eyes and the ocean of blood, and he knew he'd be seeing that image for a very long time to come. "Just send the coroner, Mona. It's too late to save any of these people."
PRAY FOR SILENCE. Copyright 2010 by Linda Castillo
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thrillers are supposed to thrill you, and this series doesn't disappoint! Thanks to the author's incredible descreiptions, I actually felt like I was there, helping Kate and Tomasettie scope out the crime scenes. It's all about atmosphere. I like to get lost inside a book, and have not been disappointed by this author yet. The characters and the Amish community / countryside are well drawn and bring that extra dimension and emotional payoff that so many books are missing nowadays. Look forward to more of the series.
I've read Ms. Castillo's romances for years and had to try her thrillers. Even in such a dark and frightening premise, she still managed to engage me in her main characters' (Kate and Tomasetti) relationship. I didn't realize this was book II. Now I'm going to read the first, and am so excited to get to see how Kate and Tom met. :-> Keep up the wonderful storytelling, Ms. Castillo!
The first Kate Burkholder novel, Sworn to Silence, thoroughly hooked me. Kate and her team in the quaint town of Painter's Mill, the people in the Amish community, and the luscious John Tomasetti, Kate's love interest, were all characters I looked forward to meeting again in the second book of the series. And after surviving the roller coaster ride of that first book, I anticipated even more thrills and surprises in Pray for Silence. I was NOT disappointed! Linda Castillo knows how to keep a reader turning pages! This is an action-packed, realistic, scary, and well-written story that kept me up late into the night.
Linda C. has a way of making a gorey crime scene almost elegant. She holds you hostage with her powerful prose and forces you to ride the emotional rollercoaster with Kate, all the while you're entranced and have no desire to break free. This is the second book of the Burkholder series and I love it even more than the first. PLEASE tell me there are more to come!
In Castillo's excellent murder-mystery, Pray for Silence, police chief Kate Burkholder is investigating the murder of seven members of an Amish family. There are no discernable clues left behind by the killer. Kate is respected by the Amish, in their distant and aloof way, and immensely by her department. This graphic story is convincing and well-researched and not for the faint of heart, but also sharing the spot light is the main protagonist, Kate, who struggles with her own demons and there are many challenging, disquieting moments of self-discovery. CAPTIVATING!
After reading SWORN TO SILENCE, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Linda Castillo's next Kate Burkholder novel! The characters are fresh and original, and the plot is well-drawn and keeps me turning the pages. I find I've invested a lot in the relationship between Kate and Tomasetti, as well as the lives of the other players in this series. Keep it up, Linda C.! I can't wait for the next one!
Pray for Silence is the second book in the series. I read both of the books back to back. I escaped into Kate's world and I could not put this down. I got so caught up in the story line and wanting to find more about Kate's history. Kate and Tomasetti's relationship grows more in this novel and it definitely left me wanting more! I was a little annoyed at the fact that Kate seemed to be drinking more in this novel, but you're not supposed to love everything about a character. Kate is a passionate cop and I can't for the next novel in the series.
I am not the murder mystery type, but this caught my attention and never let me go. The charachters are well developed. It is a little grizzly at first, but the descriptions are needed to get the reader involved in the charachters' mind set. I read this one in record time. It should come with a warning that you aren't going to get much else done once you pick it up, as you will want to keep reading it until you are finished!
I have been an editor for going on ten years. It is tough for me to take off my critique hat. This book grabbed me and never let go. A real treat!
Police Chief Kate Burkholder is called to a murder scene where entire Amish families of seven have been slaughtered; the girls tortured. A former Amish herself, Kate tries to persuade the Amish community to help her. She get assistance from Sate agent John Tomasetti, whom she has some sort of relationship, although neither can determine what that relationship is. Clues have them questioning anyone that may have been in contact with the teenage daughter who had a hidden diary mentioning the relationship she has with a non-Amish man. Although some scenes were gruesome, the writing is superb and had me feeling what Kate was experiencing as she comes to temrs with her own demons as she tracks the killer in their community.
Kate Burkholder will have to move to a new town when the possibilites for mayhem need to be expanded to be part of a multi-novel collection, or I won't forgive Linda Castillo for bringing her alive in the first two novels. Her stories are destined to become best-sellers when word gets out. I just don't know if I can miss that much sleep!
Very Enjoyable read! I also recommend the previous book by this author.
Not as good as the first book in this series. I had figured who the perps were way before Kate did. I felt that the author had Kate missing some very obvious conclusions; seemed to me that Kate was smarter in the first book.
i enjoyed the book. it held my interest all the way to the end. i am not going to say much about the book for it is best learned about by reading it.
It seems like the author is just going through the motions on this one. There are sentences in this book that were either copied and pasted from the first mystery or are stock sentences she always uses. I was very engaged with the first book but this one feels dead inside. The main character spends a lot of time being appalled by the violence she sees and feeling weepy. I don't know any cops like that. It is also very clear the author talked to some police about basic safety tactics that are second-nature to any police officer worth her salt, and then she put them into the book in an extremely awkward way that did not ring true. The story was a little boring despite the very graphic violence. I also noticed, in both books, that the author keeps mentioning the "first 48 hours" after the crime being super-important. ..rolls eyes.. It is still a passable mystery, just not as good as the first.
I have read all of Linda Castillo's books and I think this is the best!
I have read both books in this series now and this second one was great! I stayed up half the night to finish it and upon reading the inside blurb my son and husband grabbed it too.
Finished this book (hard to put down) and then had to search out the previous book (Sworn to Silence) -- now I can't wait for Castillo's next book!!!!
I'm intrigued with this series. I'll continue. Author is very consistent and juggles various plot lines with skill.
Enjoyed this mystery