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THE HIDDEN ONE by Linda Castillo: Book Review

A number of years ago I taught a course I called “Murder in Ethnic Communities” at BOLLI (the Brandeis University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).  One of the books we read was Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo, the eighth book in the series featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder of Painters Mill, Ohio.  My students were fascinated by the small town setting, by the lifestyle of the Amish residents, and by Kate’s backstory.

In The Hidden One Kate is visited by three members of the Amish clergy from the Kish Valley in Pennsylvania.  A member of their community, Jonas Bowman, has been arrested for the murder of a man who disappeared eighteen years earlier, and they believe he is innocent.  Now the remains of Bishop Ananias Stoltzfus have been found, along with the murder weapon that belongs to Bowman.  The men have come to ask Kate to investigate the case because Jonas lived in Painters Mill until he was eighteen.

Kate is not certain that the Amish elders are aware of the history that she and Jonas share.  She’s reluctant to go to Pennsylvania, a bit afraid of what she might find.  Although she’s certain that the Jonas Bowman she knew could not be guilty of murder, she hasn’t seen him in more than twenty years, and she knows how much a person can change in that time.  Still, she feels committed to finding out what happened since it’s because of her that Jonas’ family moved to Pennsylvania.

When Kate visits Jonas in jail, he tells her that God has a plan and that the “one thing that I know for certain is that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”  She understands that he believes this Amish teaching, but as someone who left the Amish community two decades earlier, this is not something that resonates with her.  After their conversation, Kate is convinced of Jonas’ innocence, and she is determined to investigate.

Jonas gives Kate the background information regarding his relationship with Stoltzfus.  Although the bishop was thought by most members of the community to be strict but fair, Jonas saw another side of him, a mean, more vengeful side.  Stoltzfus had put Jonas’ father, a minister in the church, under a bann, which meant that no one in the community could do business with him, speak to him, or share a meal with him.  Shortly after the bann went  into effect, Jonas’ father died, whether from a heart attack or stress no one knew.

Jonas admits that after his father’s death he lost his temper in church with the bishop one day, shouted at him, and wrecked his buggy.  Two weeks after that Stoltzfus disappeared.

In Kate Burkholder, Linda Castillo has created a wonderful character.  Kate’s integrity and bravery are evident, and her strong relationship with her lover John Tomaselli, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation, continues to deepen with every book.  In The Hidden One she is without Tomaselli or the support of the Painters Mill police department, but she remains determined to discover the truth about Stoltzfus’ death.

You can read more about Linda Castillo at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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