cover image Trace of Evil

Trace of Evil

Alice Blanchard. Minotaur, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-22703-4

Set in Upstate New York, this gripping series launch from Blanchard (The Breathtaker) examines how violent secrets from the past resurface in a rural community. Det. Natalie Lockhart, a rookie cop, still struggles with the beating death of her older sister, Willow, 20 years earlier. Another sister, Grace, who’s raising a 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, urges Natalie to bury her memories and focus on the recent murder of schoolteacher Daisy Buckner. Meanwhile, Ellie is drawn to dark rituals that renew Natalie’s suspicions about Willow’s murder. The setting provides visual interest, and the resourceful, sympathetic Natalie drives the action. Blanchard occasionally undermines tension by relying heavily on subplots, a large number of extraneous characters, and misdirection. However, she delivers the goods in a sharp, if derivative, showdown between Natalie and the serial killer who crossed her path many years ago. Flush with red herrings, Wiccan symbols, and disaffected teens, this book will appeal to fans of criminal investigations led by empowered women. Agent: Jill Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Agency. (Dec.)