Featured Review: ‘The Burning’ by Linda Castillo


New York Times bestselling author Linda Castillo cranks up the heat for her 16th Kate Burkholder novel, giving her readers yet another up-all-night reading experience they won’t soon forget.

After spending an evening at a local Ohio bar pounding shots of Wild Turkey, Milan Swanz figured he’d “chosen the wrong night to get drunk and walk home,” and he was right . . . just not for the reasons he expected. After his drinking buddy took off without him, though, what choice did he have to but hoof it on foot back home? Thankfully, or so he thought, two strangers pulled up and offered him a ride, to which he graciously accepted. Seeking a reprieve from the cold winter’s night, Milan brushed snow from his shoulders and hopped in the vehicle. Before he knew what was happening, a strap slid around his throat, squeezing, draining the life from his body. Desperate for oxygen, lights flickering in his peripherals, Milan fought against the restraint to no avail. A moment later, the light flickered out, and everything went dark.

Slipping into the first-person point of view, the story shifts from the chilling and spine-tingling opening prologue to meet back up with Chief of Police Kate Burkholder, who is woken by her cell phone just before three o’clock in the morning. The graveyard shift dispatcher tells Kate that one of her deputies, Chuck “Skid” Skidmore, just called in a mysterious fire and a dead body. Hearing that Skid suspects a homicide, Kate heads out to the crime scene and is taken aback when she finds Milan Swanz’s charred corpse. Worse yet, the man appears to have been chained to a steak in the ground, and all the evidence suggests he was beaten and burned alive. As an investigation gets underway, Kate again finds herself on the outside, looking in at an Amish community that prefers to handle their problems on their own. It’s something Kate knows all too well, having grown up Amish, part of their way of life, before leaving the religion as a young adult. What she can’t figure out, however, is why the Amish won’t talk about Milan, who was said to have been at odds with the community and had recently been excommunicated.

Unsure whether they’re attempting to protect him or hide something else, Kate sets out looking for answers, leading her down a winding path where a horrifying and shocking truth awaits, one that not only shakes her to her core but forces her to question everything she thought she knew about her herself, as well as the Amish and Anabaptist culture.

Linda Castillo holds nothing back with her latest thriller where nobody is safe and nothing is off-limits, and viewpoints are challenged in more ways than one. Kate, who was once a young Amish girl during a particularly brutal and trying time, survived only to realize she no longer belonged. Since leaving the Amish community, Kate has flourished and really grown into her own, something Castillo has managed masterfully, constantly bringing her hero along and fleshing her out in real-time.  These days, Kate is finally happily married. She’s found a new purpose in life but still has a desire to serve and wears her badge with honor. But it’s fair to say that she continues to change, albeit slightly, just as most of us do as we grow and gain life experience. Castillo has always excelled at humanizing Kate, someone readers can relate to and identify with. Without spoiling anything, that’s especially true here, as Kate faces an ugly revelation that suddenly leaves her questioning everything, but also places her smack-dab in the middle of a dangerous and potentially deadly investigation.

Think Craig Johnson meets Dan Brow, and you’ve got The Burning, a riveting adventure where conspiracies loom large and a killer runs loose. If you’re not already reading Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series, you should be. . . and trust me, this one’s not to be missed.

Book Details

Author: Linda Castillo
Series: Kate Burkholder #16
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250781116
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: July 9th, 2024



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


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