Title: Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard
Natalie Lockhart Series Book One
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 375 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From Alice Blanchard, the author of the New York Times Notable mystery novel Darkness Peering comes Trace of Evil, first in an evocative new series about a small New York town, its deeply held secrets, and the woman determined to uncover them, no matter what the cost.
There’s something wicked in Burning Lake…
Natalie Lockhart is a rookie detective in Burning Lake, New York, an isolated town known for its dark past. Tasked with uncovering the whereabouts of nine missing transients who have disappeared over the years, Natalie wrestles with the town’s troubled history – and the scars left by her sister’s unsolved murder years ago.
Then Daisy Buckner, a beloved schoolteacher, is found dead on her kitchen floor, and a suspect immediately comes to mind. But it’s not that simple. The suspect is in a coma, collapsed only hours after the teacher’s death, and it turns out Daisy had secrets of her own. Natalie knows there is more to the case, but as the investigation deepens, even she cannot predict the far-reaching consequences – for the victim, for the missing of Burning Lake, and for herself.
Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard is an eerie, suspense-laden mystery.
Rookie Detective Natalie Lockhart’s first murder case hits close to home. The victim is Daisy Buckner, wife of fellow detective Brandon and best friend to Natalie’s sister Grace. Daisy is a popular, well-liked teacher so it is unfathomable that she has been murdered. The main suspect in the case is one of her students, but Natalie is not completely convinced he is their murderer. Her investigation leads to her beloved niece Ellie and her circle of friends, India, Sadie and Berkley. With the whole town grieving, there is added urgency for Natalie and the rest of the detectives to close the case.
Natalie is the daughter of a cop who taught her a lot about being a police officer. She has worked hard to move up through the ranks and she is currently working on a series of cold cases. She has found some very odd evidence that she believes is linked to her investigation. But after Daisy’s murder, Natalie is laser-focused on finding her killer.
Natalie quickly learns Daisy and Brandon’s marriage was not quite as perfect as everyone believes. Brandon’s actions are not exactly helping him look innocent, but Natalie is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. While he is not able to shed much light on who might have wanted to kill Daisy, Natalie’s sister Grace does offer some important information. But will this unexpected lead unmask a murderer?
Natalie’s home town of Burning Lake is steeped in a history of witchcraft. Many of the teenagers dabble in Wicca, including Grace and Natalie. They both abandoned Wicca as teens but the tradition still continues in the present day. Natalie is dismayed to discover Ellie and her friends have formed a coven. Certain discoveries at Daisy’s home point to Wicca, but none of the teenagers are eager to answer her questions. Is their reticence just normal teenager behavior? Or is there a more sinister reason for their continued silence?
Trace of Evil is an engrossing police procedural that is quite atmospheric. The small town is somewhat insular and everyone seems to know their friends’ and neighbors’ secrets. Is it possible one of the people in their midst is a murderer? With astonishing twists and startling turns, Natalie uncovers the shocking truth about who killed Daisy. I enjoyed this first installment in Alice Blanchard’s Natalie Lockhart series and highly recommend the mystery to fans of the genre.