Are you in the mood for a slow-burn mystery centered around a small-town murder, with a hint of witchcraft? Then look no further, because you should get your hands on a copy of Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard, stat!
This story follows newbie detective Natalie Lockhart, who recently moved back to her hometown of Burning Lake to follow in her father’s footsteps as a police officer. Her backstory is incredibly detailed, and we quickly learn that both her parents have since passed, and one of her sisters, Willow, was murdered when Natalie was still a little girl (with her killer now behind bars). Natalie, like most girls in her hometown, spent her teenage years dabbling in witchcraft, thanks to the town’s history, which is ripe with New England witch trials.
Like all newbies, Natalie is given case files for infamous cold cases dealing with local missing and murdered women. No one thinks she’ll find any new leads, but it’s tradition to see what new blood can do with old facts. However, this is put on hold when her other sister’s best friend, Daisy, is found dead. To make it more complicated, Daisy was also married to another detective, and was a well-known local high school teacher. The entire town is put on high alert while Natalie takes the lead in finding the killer.
You might be thinking, is Daisy’s murder somehow linked to Willow’s murder? You should know by now that I don’t reveal any spoilers, so you’ll have to read the story to find out for yourself!
The book spends a lot of time exploring the relationships of everyone in Burning Lake. Most of the adults Natalie knows were friends from high school, and in typical small-town fashion, everyone knows everyone’s business. It becomes difficult for Natalie to separate personal relationships from work, but this also shows how dedicated she is to her job, and finding justice. Despite all the background narrative throughout the book, I did enjoy learning more about her character, and seeing how everyone was connected.
Unlike a lot of recent thrillers, Trace of Evil doesn’t use unreliable narrators to drive the plot, which was a nice change of pace. It also doesn’t include any unnecessary, romantic sub-plots, or see female leads dealing with substance or physical abuse.
I’ve read a lot of thrillers, but nothing quite like Trace of Evil. It’s definitely a slower read, but the background information added a lot to the characters, and having the underlying theme of witchcraft made it more enjoyable. If you’re a fan of mystery, thriller, or crime fiction, be sure to check this one out!
Thank you to the publisher for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. Trace of Evil came out on December 3, 2019, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.