Author tackles sexual assault in 'A Gathering of Secrets'
"A Gathering of Secrets" by Linda Castillo, Minotaur, lindacastillo.com/
Linda Castillo's exquisitely plotted novels delve deep into Amish life and culture using the prism of a police procedural. Without deriding or sentimentalizing the Amish, Castillo illustrates their culture while showing that Amish adherence to traditions and silence on sensitive situations can allow evil to seep in unexpectedly.
In her superb 10th novel, Castillo continues to show that Amish problems are universal, despite their insular ways. They aren't immune to the #MeToo movement as Castillo tackles sexual assault in "A Gathering of Secrets."
Kate Burkholder, the intelligent, insightful police chief of Painters Mill, Ohio, investigates the death of 18-year-old Daniel Gingerich, who died when the family barn was set on fire. Daniel was on Rumspringa, a time when a young person can experience the world without the Amish rules, generally before joining the church. To his family, Daniel was a hard worker, "a good young man. ... Humble and kind and generous." But Kate soon discovers that Daniel was a sexual predator, preying on inexperienced young women who blamed themselves for his unwanted attention. At least one woman, overcome by guilt, committed suicide. Their parents, too, often blamed their daughters, preferring to keep the rapes secret.
Kate was raised Amish before leaving the church. She was sexually assaulted as a teen, and the case weighs heavily on her. She understands the killer's motives as she learns more about Daniel.
As in her other novels, Castillo delivers a complete look at the Amish community, showing the various sects, the rise of Amish businesses that cater to outsiders, whom they call "the English," and the emphasis on home and family.
Kate's complicated "love-hate relationship" with the community to which she was born enhances "A Gathering of Secrets." She has much respect for Amish ways yet abhors the attitudes that allow "a devil in disguise" such as Daniel to thrive. Her "simple happiness" in her relationship with John Tomasetti, an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent, is well-explored.
"A Gathering of Secrets" is a standout in a stellar series.