Monday, December 16, 2019

Book Review: "Trace of Evil" by Alice Blanchard

Alice Blanchard's new novel, Trace of Evil is a terrific, atmospheric mystery, full of twists and turns, and it's a great start to what I hope will be a new series.

Natalie Lockhart is a rookie detective in her hometown of Burning Lake, NY—a town which almost rivaled Salem, MA back in the day with the presence of witches. Kids and adults like still dabble in witchcraft, and there’s been some unfounded rumors of satanism through the years.

Like any rookie cop in Burning Lake, Natalie is tasked with looking into the nine cold cases of local transients that have gone missing through the years. But just as she starts making some promising headway, Daisy Buckner, the wife of a fellow police detective, a popular high school teacher, and one of her older sister's best friends, is murdered.

While there appears to be a pretty clear suspect in Daisy’s murder, they end up in a coma shortly after Daisy's body is discovered. But the more Natalie digs into the murder, the more confusing things get, as it appears both Daisy and her husband had secrets of their own, secrets creating an ever-widening circle of guilt and suspicion in the town. Is this case as cut-and-dried as it appears, or are things more complicated than anyone can imagine?

As Natalie fights to uncover the truth, she has her own demons to fight, too, demons stemming from her oldest sister’s murder many years before, and the emotional scars of a childhood attack. She also must figure out which people know more than they're willing to share, about Daisy's life, her murder, and many other questions and issues in the town.

Alice Blanchard has created a terrific set of characters and a vivid mystery which kept me guessing. There was a lot going on here, as the cold cases meshed with Daisy's murder, Natalie's older sister's murder, and an incident from her own childhood. As the book hurtled toward its conclusion, things got a bit confusing at times. There is a lot of violence in the book, more telling than showing, so that may upset some folks.

Regardless of my minor criticisms, Trace of Evil was the start of what I hope will be a terrific series (hopefully with more Natalie and Luke?).

I won a complimentary copy of this book via a Bookstagram giveaway. Thanks to Minotaur Books for making it available!

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