Sworn to Silence, by Linda Castillo (14 August)

All right, a thriller I mostly enjoyed! Hurrah! Well, except for the totally unnecessary (but happily brief) romance part. And the weird ending. But whatever.

The story: Kate Burkholder is the female, formerly Amish, rather young chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio, the town she grew up in. Her world is doing okay until the night she gets a call about a dead girl in town — not just dead, but murdered, and not just murdered but murdered with the same MO of a serial killer that was active in the same town just sixteen years ago. Did you hear that toppling sound? Right. But the twist here (well, the beginning-of-the-book twist, anyway, totally not a spoiler) is that sixteen years ago, a fourteen-year-old Kate killed the Slaughterhouse Killer in self-defense and he’s been buried in a grain silo ever since. Kate has to tread lightly on this case (as she reminds the reader about a jillion times) because she doesn’t want any other cops digging into the past and figuring out what she did all those years ago.

Castillo does pretty well with this plot, except for the aforementioned bit where she likes to beat facts into the reader’s skull, and the other aforementioned bit wherein Kate has the sex with a cop brought in from Columbus who has even more problems that I don’t care about than Kate does. This is apparently the first in a series, and also Castillo apparently also writes romances, so I’m guessing there will be more of the unnecessary sex-having in the future. So I’m probably not going to read those. Oh well.

The other thing I didn’t like about the plot was that unlike a good mystery, wherein the killer is revealed at the end and you’re either like “I knew it!” or “Ohhhh, now I totally see it!”, this is done bad thriller-style and you’re like, “Oh, hello, person I would not have suspected until I read the last two pages, wherein it was proved conclusively that the killer is you.” So. You know.

Nonetheless, it was a fun and happy time (well, as happy as murders can be) after the tear-fest that was The Time Traveler’s Wife, so good on Castillo for that.

Rating: 7/10

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Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult (15 January — 16 January)

Oh, Jodi Picoult. Just when I’m so angry at you, the library suddenly has all of your books. I remembered this as one of Picoult’s books that Laura loved a bunch, so I grabbed it. Thank goodness I did!

Plain Truth starts with a girl secretly giving birth in a barn and hoping for God to solve her problem. She falls asleep holding her baby, but when she wakes up it’s gone, and that makes her pretty happy. Unfortunately, it is found in the morning, dead and hidden in a pile of clothing. Katie, eighteen years old and found bleeding from her vagina, is the prime suspect in the baby’s murder, but she is saying she never even had a baby.

Ellie, a high-powered defense attorney, has just completed the case of her life in acquitting a child molester and is feeling pretty dirty about the whole thing. She leaves Philadelphia and her lame-tastic boyfriend for some relaxing time near Amish country with her cousin Leda. Unfortunately for Ellie, Katie is Leda’s niece and Ellie finds herself not only representing an alleged baby-killer but also living and working on her farm as well.

I thought this novel was just great. I enjoyed learning about the Amish culture, and seeing how Ellie and Katie both had to make concessions to the other to make their partnership work. There was, as always, a bit of melodrama, and a nice neat little ending (I would love to cut out that page and just leave some ambiguity for the next reader, but the library probably frowns on that), but overall a good time and a much more engaging read than most of the books I’ve grabbed recently.

Rating: 8/10
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