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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Outsider, Linda Castillo: A Review

3.5 stars Having not read any of the other books in the Kate Burkholder series, I didn't know what to expect about her character. But, the blurb was interesting and I loved the cover, so I was pleased to be able to give it a shot.

Gina, a tough and brash police officer working vice in Ohio, is on the run after voicing concerns about dirty cops in her unit. In the midst of a blizzard and injured, she finds refuge in an Amish community. Fearing for her life, she calls upon her old friend and academy roommate Kate Burkholder for help. Wary of trusting her estranged friend, Kate must get to the bottom of the tenuous circumstances that brought Gina to her in the middle of the night, before she puts herself and everyone else involved in danger. The first chapter really got my attention. I loved the Amish vernacular and getting insight into what daily life is like in an Amish community. This is probably what I enjoyed most about Outsider. The prayers, the chores, the lifestyle--these parts were interesting, and I could've read about Adam and his family all day. I also liked Gina and Kate's relationship. Estranged friendships have plenty of opportunity for conflict, character development, and growth, and Castillo did a good job of establishing the boundaries and shortcomings in their relationship. Kate and Gina are positioned as polar opposites in almost every way, but seeing their compromise and strained interactions brought great readability. A few things fell short for me. First and foremost, the characters blended together a bit. As complex as I think they were supposed to be, everyone felt flat, staying within their tropes: good cop, bad cop, peaceful Amish man, smart, stern partner with a soft side. Because of this, I found the plot to be predictable, and I wasn't surprised by anything other than bringing the baby cow into the house (adorable, and again, highlighting Amish culture). Along the same line, character dialogue tended to blend together. Everyone uses the same slang, cadence, and speech patterns. One character will have a thought (she's not one of us and never has been) and two pages later, a different character will speak this same thought in almost the exact same way. This, at times, made the text feel repetitive and long-winded, and I found myself wanting less repetition and more insight into the characters. As part of a series, I found this able to stand on its own. I wasn't hurting for Kate's backstory. She had plenty of flashbacks and memories, in depth conversations with Gina, and commentary on her upbringing. So, if you're like me and picking up this series for the first time, you won't be lost on references or events. Overall, Castillo introduces an interesting angle with the Amish community, but I was left wanting more dimensional characters and deeper plot. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a quiet mystery/thriller series, as violence is minimal and the majority of the conflict is internal. Thank you to Minotaur and Netgalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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