Book Review: Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard

Trace of Evil

Author: Alice Blanchard

Publication Date: 03 December 2019

Genre: Adult Fiction – Thriller/Murder Mystery

Pages: 384

Publisher: Minotaur Books

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.

Burning Lake is a small tourist town nestled in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York that has a haunting past. In 1712, three women were executed under the suspicion of witchcraft. It was later revealed that the accusers made the entire thing up. Burning Lake put this tragic past behind them until a book about the witch trials put them on the map. Tourists began flocking to Burning Lake to visit the occult shops that sold magic kits, grimoires, and cauldrons. Witchcraft became a rite of passage for teen girls in Burning Lake.

Following the deaths of her parents, Natalie Lockhart has returned to Burning Lake and is now a detective in the Burning Lake Police Department; the same unit that her father faithfully served for decades. When Natalie was younger, her oldest sister Willow was brutally murdered (stabbed 27 times) when she was eighteen years old. On the 20th anniversary of Willow’s death, Natalie discovers the slain body of Daisy Buckner, the best friend of her sister Grace. As a rookie on the detective squad, she was already tasked with the investigation of nine cold cases. Now Natalie has to determine if Daisy’s case is connected to the cold cases or if another murderer is at large.

From start to finish, Trace of Evil is a gripping page-turner that is wrought with chilling suspense. I loved how the witchcraft theme was interwoven throughout the plot but it never overpowered the story or felt cheap. All of the characters were compelling and well-defined with Natalie being my favorite (none of that broken alcoholic female detective trope here). While this police procedural does not have the fast-paced speed that some readers expect with thrillers, the plot maintains a steady course with twists and turns up to the very last pages. I can’t wait to see what’s in store in Natalie’s next chapter.

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