Pub. Date: December 3, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Minotaur!)
Summary: 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.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Despite releasing novels since the 90s, Alice Blanchard is a totally new-to-me author. Somehow I completely missed her – even in high school when I exclusively read mysteries (and I have a feeling that, if her earlier work is anything like Trace of Evil, high school Leah would have gobbled them up!)
Trace of Evil is the first in a new series which introduces the reader to rookie cop Natalie Lockhart. As the daughter to a chief-of-police, Natalie always knew she wanted to sign onto the force one day. Under her father’s wing, Natalie soaked in his wisdom, but there was one thing her father couldn’t teach her: how to cope with tragedy, especially one that hits too close to home.
Natalie’s older sister had been brutally murdered when Natalie was young. Though a suspect was locked away, bits of evidence ate away at the back of Natalie’s mind. Twenty years later, on her sister’s Deathaversary, echoes of Natalie’s past comes back to haunt her: a beloved school teacher, the best friend of Natalie’s other sister, is also found viciously attacked and left for dead in her kitchen. As Natalie digs deeper into the investigation, a stack of cold cases dubbed “the Missing Nine” seem to share startling similarities.
While Trace of Evil is a December release, I truly feel this is best read during the early days of Autumn. Not long after I received an early copy, I found myself being drawn to it and by mid-October I was sinking into its pages. By sheer coincidence, I discovered this book is set in the town of Burning Lake and was responsible for sentencing three women to death after labeling them witches. Centuries later, no one bats an eye at the number of covens in town and it’s practically a rite of passage for the high school girls to begin practicing Wicca. This isn’t a supernatural book by any means, but witchcraft and lore make up a surprising amount of the story’s foundation.
A month and a half after finishing the book, I’m finding myself at a loss for words. I did enjoy the story while reading, but it was more atmospheric than gripping drama and the big reveal at the end seemed like it came out of nowhere – and not in a good way. I felt the culprit was selected for shock value.
Although the ending did nothing for me, I enjoyed the time I spent with Trace of Evil and look forward to what comes next. I absolutely love sinking into a good mystery in the winter, but I believe this one would work best as a Fall read, as there’s so much of the plot that revolves around witches and witch trials of centuries past.