Book review: ‘Outsider’ by Linda Castillo

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Kate Burkholder was chief of police in Painters Mill, Ohio, in Amish country. She was originally Amish, but had left that life and started a law enforcement career as an officer in the Columbus Police Force. Thinking Columbus was all in the past, she was surprised to be summoned to Adam Lengacher’s farm by Gina Colorosa, who was still a Columbus police officer. Adam and his children had found her nearly frozen near a fence line on their farm. They had also found a wrecked truck. Kate and Gina had a complicated past, with Gina being willing to cut corners and Kate not. Kate left Columbus; Gina didn’t.

As an officer in the vice unit, Gina had participated in some questionable activities, but when she witnessed an incident that cost two innocent people their reputation and their lives, that was just too much. She reported it to a superior officer, who was apparently a part of the corruption of the Columbus Vice Unit. As a result, she was relegated as a turncoat, and she rightfully feared for her safety. She had thought Kate could help her and had been headed there when the heavy snow had caused her to go off the road.

Upon arriving at the Lengacher farm, Kate got her four-wheel drive Explorer stuck in a drift. There was even more snow on the way. What she found in the house was even more worrisome than the snow. Gina had been shot in the shoulder; she needed medical attention. Believing that her colleagues would go to any lengths to protect themselves, she refused to go to a doctor. Yet the wound was serious and needed to be treated before infection set in. The Amish used one of their own, a veterinarian who did a good deal of human doctoring when needed. Kate explained the situation to him, and his Amish belief system meant that he would help a person in need. He proved up to the job, and there was no requirement that he report anything.

What Gina wanted, besides some degree of safety, was help in bringing to light the wide scope of illegal activities carried out by the Columbus Vice Unit. What the vice unit wanted was to get rid of someone who knew enough about their operation to be trouble. Regarding Gina’s needs, Chief Burkholder contacted State Agent John Tomasetti, her housemate, and he began to look into the matter. Meantime, one of the leaders in the corrupt activities of the vice unit remembered Gina’s earlier friendship when they were both on the Columbus force, knew she had left town in that direction, and decided that Painters Mill was a place to start. With some deductive reasoning and a lie, they were able to find out that Gina was on the Lengacher’s farm.

Adam Lengacher was a widower with three children. Gina being on the Lengacher farm seemed like the safest way to go, but Chief Burkholder worried about involving the family in the kind of trouble that Gina was in. With Gina’s location now known, that worry proved to be right on the mark.

Tomasetti has found that both state and federal law enforcement units are closing in on the corrupt Columbus Vice Unit. Gina will make a strong witness for their case, but she has baggage of her own. And there’s a question as to whether she’ll be around. What’s going to happen to the Lengachers and, for that matter, Kate Burkholder? There are a lot of loose ends to this mystery, and we haven’t even talked about the weather.

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