It takes only a few pages of the suspenseful mystery After the Storm to hurl readers into the heart of a violent tornado touching down near the little town of Painters Mill in rural Ohio, bringing widespread destruction and even the death of an infant. In the twister’s aftermath, a different kind of damage works its way to the surface, as Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called to the site of an old barn where human bones have been unearthed in the wake of the storm.
Linda Castillo is the author of six previous Burkholder mysteries, set deep in Amish country where the author was raised. She skillfully weaves the attitudes and habits of the Amish Ordnung—the disciplines of this religious community—with clear, dramatic portraits of the people who still follow the sect’s old ways in today’s modern world. Amish phrases add a distinct flavor to the narrative and are never confusing or out of place, providing readers with a bedrock sense of place and atmosphere.
Burkholder, originally from a conservative Amish family, pursues her life and career outside the confines of that faith, but readers sense the detective’s affection for her family, despite their disapproval that she’s left the fold, as well as her respect for the plain—and often misleading—face the Amish community presents to outsiders. In After the Storm, that plain face turns violent, as Kate and her team search for the identity of the 30-year-old bones, leading her to terrible secrets that will upend a seemingly peaceful, bucolic world. The bones tell the story of an unimaginable atrocity whose legacy continues to scar lives right into the present day.
The author introduces the additional counterpoint of a secret that Kate carries in her own life, one that’s bound to affect her new relationship with state investigative agent John Tomasetti. The interplay of the couple’s feelings for each other can be tender and dramatic, at times terse and cutting, but always authentic.
After the Storm deftly follows a story of modern-day crime detection as it grinds against the implacable ways of a community bound by ties so strong that violence and betrayal seem to be their only destiny.