When the dying Paul greets Painter's Mill police chief Kate Burkholder by name, she realizes with horror that this is the family of her closest childhood friend, Mattie. When Kate tore herself away from her Amish family and community as a young woman, beautiful Mattie had stayed in the Plain Life, married Paul, and bore his children.
While Holmes County has jurisdiction, Sheriff Rasmussen is quite relieved to have Kate notify Mattie of the accident. Historically, the Amish are skeptical of police and uninterested in retribution through the legal system. They believe that everything that happens comes from God, and their sometimes terrible duty is to accept, forgive, and remain faithful. After the horrible and very real slaughter at the Nickel Mines Amish School, families of the victims visited and comforted the family of the shooter, publicly announced their forgiveness of the crime, and even set up a charitable fund for his wife and children.
It was a curious accident scene. There were no skid marks from braking, and no debris from the vehicle except for a side-view mirror and part of a heavy-duty cotter pin. The vehicle must have blown through a stop sign at 80 miles an hour to have scattered the bodies and buggy debris so far. There was an impression of a large bolt in the wooden side of the buggy's door. After painstaking reconstruction, the police finally conclude that it had not been an accident, but deliberate murder. Was it a hate crime, or something personal?
Dr. Michael Armitage, from whose office Paul and the children were returning when they were killed, confirms that all three children had Cohen Syndrome, a genetic disorder that delays and distorts mental and physical development. It is rare, and found mostly in narrow gene pools. Mattie and Paul, both healthy themselves, must both be carriers. He also confirmed that it was usually Mattie, not Paul, who brought the children to their weekly appointments. From there, the story moves quickly to a breathtaking, if somewhat sketchy, conclusion that nearly solves all of Kate's problems forever––at the bottom of a lake!
|Amish Funeral by Bill Coleman|
The book is written in the first person, from Kate's perspective, and in the present tense. While I often find this annoying in a novel, this one moved so fast that I quickly forgot about it. While I found the plot rather thin and improbable, the author offers a few fresh insights into this fascinating and secretive society in the setting of a truly heinous crime.
Note: I received a free review copy of Her Last Breath, which will be released by Minotaur Books on June 18, 2013. Portions of this review may appear on other sites under my user names there.