Since a serial killer stopped terrorizing local citizens in the 1990's, nothing much happens in the rural burg of Painters Mill, Ohio, which is just how Chief Kate Burkholder likes it. After years of experience in the more urban setting of Columbus, Ohio, she jumped at the chance to become the police chief of her hometown. Her past as a member of the local Amish community has given her a unique perspective and ability to act as a go-between between the private Amish community and the "English."
When one of her officers responds to a "loose cattle" call and instead finds the nude body of a young woman in the snow, Kate's peaceful existence comes to an abrupt halt. Not only is the murder reminiscent of the serial killings that took place in the '90's, but it brings Kate's history crashing back to her, including a secret that she, her brother and sister have kept all these years. When the town calls in outside help, Kate is resistant, fearing her secret will be exposed after 16 years, but as bodies continue to turn up, she must face her fear in order to solve the gruesome crimes.
John Tomasetti has been to hell, and does not seem to want to leave. Since losing his partner and family a few years earlier, his life has continued in a downward spiral, thanks to his steady diet of booze and painkillers. When he is assigned to work on the Painters Mill murders, he knows it is his last chance. Can Kate overcome her fear and mistrust to work with Tomasetti?
This is the first book in a promising new series featuring Chief Kate Burkholder, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of John Tomasetti as well. Despite the Amish connection, this is definitely NOT a cozy mystery - the grisly details, salty language and sexual situations and references are not for the faint of heart. Kate is a great heroine - strong yet vulnerable, principled yet hesitant, and damaged yet hopeful. I look forward to seeing more from this series. Fans of this book may also like Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series or Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series.