Sunday, December 1, 2019

ARC Review: Trace of Evil by Alice Blanchard

Trace of Evil
Author: Alice Blanchard
Series: Natalie Lockhart (Book 1)
Publication: Minotaur Books (December 3, 2019)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: First, I have to say that I didn't finish this book. I got to the 75% mark before giving up on it. There was just so much going on that I couldn't keep track and couldn't seem to care about any of the characters. Natalie Lockhart is a detective in her hometown of Burning Lake, New York. She has been working on the traditional rookie file of cold cases which include the disappearance of nine homeless people over the course of a number of years. Each new detective spends some time with the cases trying to tease out a clue. None have been able to close any of the cases.

However, Natalie gets a new case when the wife of one of her fellow detectives is found murdered by a frying pan on her kitchen floor. The most likely suspect for this teacher was student Riley Skinner who had had verbal encounters with her. Daisy Buckner was a childhood friend of Natalie's sister Grace. Her husband is one of Natalie's best friends in the police department. When he goes rushing off to confront Riley, Natalie is just behind and witnesses Riley's collapse. Now Riley is in a coma and the questions about Daisy's death just keep piling up. Daisy was clearly keeping secrets that could have led to her death.

By itself, this would have been enough for a complete mystery but I felt like I was getting buried in Natalie's past which included being assaulted by an unknown predator with a butterfly shaped birthmark when she was a young child to her flirtation with witchcraft and covens which seems to be a common occurrence for the young women of her town including her sisters and her niece and her niece's friends. Add in that Natalie's older sister was murdered twenty years in the past and, while a suspect was convicted, he has continually proclaimed his innocence and her flirtation with her boss who is recently divorced and was a childhood crush of hers. Then there is a missing homeless woman who was also one of her sister's friends and who might be the newest victim of the criminal responsible for the previous nine cold case murders. Too many things were happening for me to keep track of.

The prose was overly descriptive and the flow of the story seemed repetitive as Natalie kept circling back to her past, her sister's death, and various flirtations with witchcraft. I kept getting bogged down in flowery descriptions of things that didn't seem to matter or to further the plot. A more patient reader than I am might enjoy this tangled introduction to Natalie Lockhart and her world but it wasn't for me. 

Favorite Quote:
Evil felt like something slipping into you -- as deceptive and sleek as a scalpel blade. Like a rustling sound deep in the woods, when everything else grew quiet and the wind stirred your hair with a ghostly hand. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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