Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo is a powerful
story. From the very first page, when a young Amish woman
commits suicide, the plot takes on a dark and gripping tone,
a very thought-provoking novel. Bur readers should not be
surprised considering Castillo books are always insightful
The author explained, “The book opens with a young Amish
woman committing suicide. Readers do not know why, but as
they turn the pages they begin to understand what happened
to her. There is also this young man who was burned to death,
a very sad situation. As the investigation takes on an ominous
tone, I chose to explore the question, is murder justified?”
The story begins with Amish teenager Emma Miller hanging herself
and then fast forwards six months where Painter Mills police
chief Kate Buckholder is called to investigate a body found
in a burned barn. The initial reaction is that it was a freak
accident, but as the evidence builds up Kate suspects murder.
This eighteen-year-old Amish boy, Daniel Gingerich, is found
inside, burned alive, and barricaded in the tack room with
no way to escape. She is baffled since it appears Daniel has
no enemies in the world, yet, he dies a harsh and cruel death.
The investigation takes on twists and turns since Daniel has
a secret life. Secrets are the heart of the story as the Amish
community stays silent, basically attempting to stonewall
the case. Kate begins to wonder if this peaceful and deeply
religious community is conspiring to hide a truth no one wants
to talk about.
As she wades through a sea of suspects, she’s confronted
by her own violent past, which made her leave the Amish community.
She finds that there are many parallels to her past as the
rape of Amish girls are hidden, and not talked about or reported.
This part of the story is very relevant to issues of today.
It is an Amish MeToo Moment. What also makes the plot authentic
is Kate’s reflection on the Amish sects, their principles,
rules, and her ability to speak the Dutch language.
I never want to generalize, and remember this is a fictional
story. I think that we should never generalize the entire
community. But in this story, the community did try to sweep
things under the rug. The mother of the girl who committed
suicide was first seen as uncaring and not supportive of her
daughter. The parent reactions depend on how they were raised
and which sect they were from. Another girl, Ruth, who became
pregnant from a rape, had her mother decide to find her a
husband to pass the baby off as her husbands. Each mother
tried to sweep the secret under the rug. In my research, I
read that an Amish boy who does something terribly wrong,
even raping someone, can get off. If he confesses before the
Church congregation, he is forgiven. This is why I wrote the
girls not speaking up, some committing suicide because they
knew the boy would have been forgiven and they would be caught
up in the stigma.”
Castillo is a master at building suspense with intense and
dark secret undertones. This harrowing thriller, with so many
interesting characters, emphasizes how religious beliefs influence
the communities’ morality and the desire to obtain justice.
Reviews of other titles in this series
A Dark Road #9
Gathering of Secrets #10