cover image The Witching Tree: A Natalie Lockhart Novel

The Witching Tree: A Natalie Lockhart Novel

Alice Blanchard. Minotaur, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-78304-2

Set in Burning Lake, N.Y., Blanchard’s creepy third novel featuring police detective Natalie Lockhart (after 2020’s The Wicked Hour) infuses a procedural with an ambient horror vibe. When Veronica Manes, a white light Wiccan and the beloved leader of one of the two traditional covens in town, is found murdered along the train tracks, dressed in a Halloween witch costume, Natalie, who was planning to resign from the force after the emotional burden of her personal involvement in two earlier murder cases, decides instead to join the investigation alongside Lt. Det. Luke Pittman, with whom she shares an awkward, more than collegial closeness. The most obvious suspects are the couple who misused a local minister’s crash space to party and perform dark rituals, but Natalie’s search uncovers some Burning Lake history tied to a centuries-old curse that points elsewhere. Though the winding investigative path keeps the reader invested throughout, Blanchard frustratingly abandons a firm resolution to the case in favor of a pile of loose ends that ramp up the multivolume arc of dread. This is not the place to start for newcomers. Agent: Jill Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Agency. (Dec.)