Book Review: Shamed by Linda Castillo
Shamed is the gripping thriller from New York Times bestselling author Linda Castillo. Kate Burkholder is on the case when a devastating murder exposes an Amish family’s tortured past.
The eleventh book in the critically acclaimed Kate Burkholder series finds our formerly Amish chief of police racing against time and operating on a severe lack of sleep to find a child gone missing after a savage attack on the girl’s grandmother.
Mary Yoder is a well-respected member of the Amish community of Painters Mill, Ohio. With two of her granddaughters, she’s gathering walnuts at the abandoned Schattenbaum place when a movement from inside the house draws her attention. She tells the girls to stay put while she goes to investigate, little realizing that death awaits her inside.
Kate, meanwhile, is training her newest deputy when a call comes in that a horse and buggy are on the loose near the old Schattenbaum homestead. Arriving on-site, she finds a hysterical little girl and Mary’s savagely stabbed corpse. Terrible enough, till the little girl informs her that her sister, Elsie, had been with them but was taken away by the devil himself.
At first, Kate and her boyfriend, Agent John Tomasetti of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, believe they’re looking for a random pervert, but conversations with Elsie Helmuth’s family get Kate to thinking that there’s a far more complicated reasoning at work here. Something doesn’t ring true about the story of special needs Elsie’s birth, and looking into this leads Kate to confront a man she’s both revered and feared for years. Bishop Troyer is the spiritual leader of the mainstream Painters Mill Amish, and the man who tried, unsuccessfully, to mortify Kate’s rebellious teenage spirit. Unsurprisingly, he is reluctant to tell her anything about his role in Elsie’s delivery, but he isn’t the only Amish witness even more close-mouthed than usual when Kate tries to dig into the Helmuths’ background. This noncompliance from her former kin hurts in more ways than one:
I keep my voice level. “This isn’t about me.”
She’s not finished. “Mer sott em sei eegne net verlosse; Gott verlosst die seine nicht.” One should not abandon one’s own; God does not abandon his own. “You did just that, Katie. And now look at you, talking to me as if I’m somehow to blame.”
I’ve heard the words a hundred times since I came back to Painters Mill. I want to believe they no longer affect me. That I’m immune. Above it. But even after all this time, the small part of me that is Amish—that will always be Amish—recoils from the sting.
If it were just her feelings at stake, Kate would shrug off the harsh words and lack of meaningful communication. But a child’s life hangs in the balance, and the harder Kate pushes, the more horrified she becomes at the truth she slowly uncovers.
Shamed is a novel that explores how the Amish reluctance to let the English, as the rest of the world is known, interfere with their family lives leads certain members of the community to perpetrate far worse deeds than would ever be countenanced by mainstream society. As a mother, I was especially perturbed at the callousness with which some of the characters treated parental rights.
This being a Linda Castillo novel, however, Shamed is not a condemnation of the Amish way of life, despite the occasional abuses. Kate might have been troubled enough by her heritage to cease living it as her truth, but she is still proud of her people and the good that they accomplish, qualities that stand her in good stead as a chief of police hired to help the Amish and English of Painters Mill get along better. Nowhere is her on-going success more obvious than in the response to Elsie’s kidnapping:
On the drive to the Helmuth farm, I pass several men on horseback, Amish men and boys who’ve saddled their buggy house to search the ditches and culverts and wooded area near the Schattenbaum place. Men clad in camouflage jackets ride ATVs through open fields and the floodplain that parallels Painters Creek, searching rugged terrain not easily accessed by vehicle or on foot. All of these volunteers have likely been at it since first light. Despite the cold block of dread that’s taken up residence in my gut, it warms me to see that the community–Amish and English alike–has come out in force to find a missing little girl.
Shamed is not my favorite of this exceptional series—that prize goes to either Her Last Breath or Down A Dark Road—but it’s a solid installment that shines a light on Amish culture and how it interacts with modern society, continuing the excellent world-building of the previous ten books. It’s also a small-town police procedural that is clearly well-researched, as well as a fast, engrossing read.