After the Storm is the seventh book in Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series. From the beginning, Castillo has managed to mine the depths of Amish society by highlighting the culture clash between this isolationist group and the public at large. Castillo continues to give readers a glimpse behind the curtain with each new book in the series and After the Storm is no exception.

After the Storm is once again set in and around Painters Mill, Ohio. As the title suggests, the plot revolves around the resolution of various threads after a violent tornado rips through the area. However, in this novel, Castillo devotes as much time – if not more – to the personal life of Kate Burkholder than she does to central mystery itself. Castillo has created the “perfect storm” of events for Kate when she forces upon her a personal crisis, a professional crisis, and an ethical crisis all at once after this weather catastrophe.

Without giving away too much of a spoiler, the professional crisis revolves around decisions that our emergency personal are required to make every day on the job. It is easy for outsiders to say that someone should or shouldn’t have done this or that, but by placing Burkholder in such a situation, Castillo allows readers to experience the second guessing that goes on within the conscience of those directly involved in these tragic split second choices.

The ethical crisis comes towards the end of the novel and of course is directly related to the mystery at the core of the novel. Suffice to say, when the storm destroys parts of Painters Mill, it also manages to uncover some long-buried bones. Burkholder’s investigation reveals that these bones are possibly tied to a dispute between the Swartzentruber Amish and the less strict sects that exist within the community. Uncovering the truth will require more than a touch of finesse while exposing the secrets of several local families.

All of this would have made for a strong novel, but Linda Castillo really shines in her depiction of the personal crisis faced by Kate Burkholder and her lover, John Tomasetti. For six books, readers have watched the relationship between these two colleagues blossom and grow – not always without some pain and compromise. In After the Storm, Castillo once again puts them through the ringer and as a result, readers will feel every emotion that Kate and John do. Being invested in the happiness of long-standing couples is something that is unique to readers of series books. For obvious reasons, I am not going to say what the crisis is, but know that these challenges present quite the roller-coaster ride for our favorite team and a satisfactory outcome is anything but certain.

Storms as metaphor are nothing new in literature, but Castillo uses the trope to her best advantage. By using an actual tornado as the backdrop for a novel about the turbulence unearthed in its wake, Linda Castillo has written what may be the best novel in the series yet. At the very least, After the Storm is the novel with the greatest stakes for our heroine, Kate Burkholder. A return to Painters Mill had better come quick as readers are going to want to know what happens next.

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Disclaimer:  A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.