#Book Review #Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard

A riveting mystery that introduces a bold and audacious rookie detective assigned to hunt for a killer who is haunted by the past in this gripping murder case…

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.

Spellbinding and gripping, Trace of Evil is a novel of twisting suspense that will leave you breathless.

(From the official synopsis)


My thoughts:

In order to get to understand Natalie Lockhart you need to know two things about her: where she comes from and her family.
Burning Lake is a small town in upstate New York, mostly famous for the stunning beauty of autumn trees and the burning of three innocent women convicted of witchcraft which happened in 1712. Their accusers later admitted it had all been made up. For years this event remained buried in town history until a book about the witch trials came out and put the town on the map. Hundreds of tourists come to visit its occult shops selling magic kits, spellbooks and souvenir cauldrons. ‘Dabbling in witchcraft was something of a rite of passage in Burning Lake’ and Natalie herself went through ‘a witchy phase’.

Another thing you need to know about Natalie is that she is the youngest of three sisters, and her oldest sister Willow Lockhart was brutally murdered twenty years ago at the age of 18, stabbed 27 times. The perpetrator was quickly arrested and sentenced for life, although he continues to maintain his innocence. The tragedy marked the remaining two sisters and their parents. Their mother never wanted to have more than one child, so having lost her favourite daughter destroyed her world and her will for living. Natalie’s father was more even in his affections. He was a police officer and often left little puzzles and mysteries for Natalie to solve. He noticed she had an inquisitive mind and a stubborn streak, and tried to teach her everything he knew about his work and life.

A secret is like a magic mirror, with endless layers of illusion. What you assume to be a fact isn’t always real.

Trace of Evil focuses on two interwoven cases. The first one is called The Missing Nine and is a group of cold cases that involved mysterious disappearings of transients, homeless people and troubled teenagers over a long period of time. Any new detective in BLPD is asked to give these files a fresh look, although nobody expects a major breakthrough: there is too little reliable information to go on. The second case is the murder of  a school teacher and Natalie’s sister’s best friend Daisy Buckner, who also happened to be the wife of one of the detectives in BLPD.
I’m not going to give away the story. Suffice it to say, the story kept me on the edge of my seat and the ending was quite unexpected. There is also a touch of burgeoning romance with an old childhood friend, which is, I hope, going to develop in the following books.

I liked Natalie for her tenacity and her courage, which I define as acting in spite of fear. She is a kind person, respectful of other people’s boundaries and need for autonomy, and a fantastically supportive sister and aunt. The cases in this book were very personal for Natalie for a variety of reasons, but I would like to see how Natalie’s character evolves in the light of other experiences.

The writing was absolutely compelling, there was depth and beauty in the descriptions, which made it really difficult for me to put down the book – I needed to read it from cover to cover.

My only regret is that I did not read this book in October- with it’s dark and slightly creepy atmosphere, it would have made an excellent choice for the Halloween month.
I will definitely be looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Minotaur books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Trace of Evil or is it on your tbr?

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      1. That must have been really frustrating! With some publishers all I ever see is the ‘Wish for it’ button as they prefer to send out widgets. This one was good and I was hoping to see your review. Hope you can still get it or borrow from a library❤❤❤


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