The past has always been a huge part, if not the overriding main theme, of this series set in rural Ohio. The past has its hooks deep inside Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and hasn’t let go yet. The past is certainly not about to let go in the latest novel of the series, Her Last Breath. If anything, in this fifth book of the series, the hooks will set even deeper and will violently and excruciatingly twist in this powerful read.
Like the earlier books, this novel begins with a tragedy that will destroy a family. A horrific crash between an Amish family in a buggy and a vehicle has happened and Painter’s Mill Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is first on the scene. The vehicle and its driver are long gone by the time Burkholder arrives, but the horse is dead and the buggy is destroyed. In the pulverized wreckage she begins to find the family. It takes her a few minutes to realize that she knows the man who is dying in front of her eyes. Paul Borntrager was driving the buggy with his three children home from their weekly visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, they didn't make it.
With the only survivor, an eight year old boy named David off to the hospital, Burkholder contacts the Bishop and takes him with her to go break the news to Paul's wife, Mattie. Mattie and Kate were strong friends all through childhood until Kate was excommunicated from the Amish and became an outsider. That decision was one of many things that broke their friendship, but Kate Burkholder will always love her.
“Reaching out, he squeezes my arm. ‘Katie, remember God has a plan. It is not our place to question, but to accept.’
The words are intended to comfort me, but I wince. The tenet of acceptance is one of the belief systems I disagreed with most when I was Amish. Maybe because my own philosophy differs so profoundly. I refuse to accept the deaths of three innocent people as part of some big divine plan. I sure as hell don’t plan on forgiving the son of a bitch responsible.” (Page 22, Her Last Breath)
Acceptance has always been a foreign concept to Kate Burkholder. Especially since that fateful day when she was 14 and her own family was destroyed though they still lived, acceptance of events and people has no longer been possible. While that refusal of acceptance drove her out of the Amish faith, continues to cause issues in her relationship with John Tomasetti, and political problems with the council as well as other difficulties, it makes her a tenacious cop. A cop enraged by the current horror and driven by the past to find out what happened to the family of her former best friend.
This is a powerful and deeply emotional book that continues an incredible series that began with Sworn to Silence. While Texas author Linda Castillo continues to slowly deepen the tangled romantic relationship between John Tomasetti and Kate Burkholder, the focus is primarily on the traffic crash and Burkholder's fateful day when she was 14. Both events, the current one and the one years ago, have huge and ongoing repercussions. The waters in this novel are deep, literally and figuratively, and Burkholder will be lucky to survive in so many ways. The psychological has always been as much of this series as the police procedure and that is certainly also true in Her Last Breath.
Simply put, the book is excellent and might be the best one of the series. You simply have to read it. If this series is new to you, start with the first novel Sworn To Silence (reviewed here) and work your way forward. It is well worth it.
Her Last Breath
Minotaur Books (St Martin’s Publishing Groups)
Hardback (also currently available in e-book and audio)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System. A big time thank you especially to the staff of the Haggard Library for all they do.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2013
Mind Slices and Carpathian Shadows, Volume II
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