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GONE MISSING by Linda Castillo: Book Review

Many people, myself included, think of the Amish as a people far removed from life as we know it today.  They don’t use electricity, ride in motorized vehicles, play popular music, or continue their education past the eighth grade.  But, however much they don’t want an un-Amish way of life, they cannot protect themselves from the outside world completely.  Amish or not, human nature is human nature.

Gone Missing is the fourth novel in the Kate Burkholder series.  Kate is the chief of police of Painters Mills, a small Ohio community that includes a number of Amish families as well as the “Englischers,” which is what the Amish call all those who are non-Amish.  The Amish try to avoid outsiders as much as possible, particularly those in the police and the legal system, in order to keep to their own way of life.  So it’s a bit surprising to Kate when she gets a call from John Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, asking for her help with the case of a missing teenager.  Kate says that missing persons cases are not her area of expertise, but John responds, “It is when they’re Amish.”  Born Amish and fluent in the Pennsylvania Dutch tongue that the community speaks, Kate is the go-to person when followers of that religion are involved.

It turns out that there are four teenage Amish girls who are missing, not just one.  Each has gone outside the strict confines of the church–dating non-Amish boys, dressing in non-Amish ways, listening to non-church music.  Each has had problems with her family, but all the parents stress that their daughters are good girls who would never willingly leave home.  So where could they be?

Kate Buckholder understands only too well the temptations these girls face.  She, too, was a wild child who left home at eighteen to become a policewoman, alienating her from her parents and siblings.  But now it is Kate’s sister Sarah who asks for her help, because one of the missing girls, Sadie Miller, is Sarah’s niece.

Several local men are persons of interest, as the police say.  Justin Treece, a teenage boy, is the Englischer boyfriend of one of the girls; he recently spent time in juvenile detention for assaulting his mother.  Stacy Karns is a prize-winning photographer; his most famous photos are of teenage Amish girls who were unknowingly photographed in various stages of undress.  And there’s Gideon Stolzfus, formerly Amish and now the pastor of his own church, who runs a kind of Underground Railroad to help unhappy teenagers leave the Amish way.

Linda Castillo paints a moving, sympathetic portrait of a tight-knit community that wants only to be left alone to keep its ways without the Englischers intruding.  But have the temptations of that world been too much for the teenagers?  Have they been led into danger, perhaps fatally?

Gone Missing is an intriguing portrait of Ohio’s Amish and English communities, living side by side in an uneasy peace.  Linda Castillo brings the various characters, sympathetic and not, to life in a way every reader will recognize, regardless of their own ethnicity.

You can read more about Linda Castillo at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

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