Caveat: Book received from NetGalley
This is a really good book. Apparently it’s the latest in an ongoing series about Kate Burkholder, Chief of Police of Painters Mill in Pennsylvania. While it’s clear there’s history, After the Storm reads as a stand-alone. The book starts with several scenes from 1985, before entering into the present. At this point, Kate and her live-in boyfriend are visiting with her very orthodox Amish brother and sister and their families. Before long, a tornado bears down on the town, interrupting the event. The tornado wreaks a lot of damage and causes a number of deaths. It also uncovers a collection of bones, which becomes the central investigation in the book. Investigating a year’s old murder is complicated by a lawsuit brought against Kate and the town, as well as someone seems to be hunting her, determined to kill her. Her homelife gets quickly complicated and Kate has a lot to deal with. She does so realistically and with smarts.
I was quickly engrossed in the story. The details of the Amish life were fascinating and played into the story in an integral way. The balance between the modern and the Amish made for a difficult line for a police chief to walk. The fact that she was raised in a conservative Amish household doesn’t always help, or even often help. Nevertheless, she sticks to her investigation and uncovers the layers of truth. The mystery was complex and believable and made a lot of sense when revealed. The personalities of the town and the Amish were well-drawn and helped make this book a page turner.
The writing was sharp, the dialog fast and delightful, and the various minor characters well-drawn and vibrant. Kate’s a sympathetic character and her relationship with Tomasetti felt genuine and sometimes heart-wrenching.
All that said, I did have a couple of issues with the book. First, it’s told in present tense. While this mostly works to create a lot of tension as events unfold, it also can be disconcerting. Sometimes it threw me out of the story. That may be entirely personal. The other thing was the hog part of the story. I grew up on a ranch and had pigs. What’s in this story is all accurate, except for the part about the pigs beings very hungry/starving. Why would any farmer starve his stock? Farmers want to make money. If they can’t feed their animals, they sell them. So this part really tripped me up. Especially since there was plenty of at least hay to feed the animals, and they could have been let out to forage and fenced into a larger area. Pigs eat anything, including table scraps and carrion. I just find it kind of unbelievable that they are so underfed. This is the reason I give the book 4 instead of 5 stars.
All in all, this is an engrossing mystery. It makes me want to pick up more in the series.