“Trace of Evil” by Alice Blanchard – Book Review

A small town in Upstate New York idyllic to the casual observer. Beautiful autumn foliage, stunning scenery, and an interesting history of witchcraft. Now the witchcraft is a tourist industry but the town still holds many dark secrets beneath the attractive veneer.

Natalie Lockhart grew up in Burning Lake. She has followed in her father’s footsteps in choice of her career path. She is working as a rookie detective for the town’s police. When she and a co-worker find his beautiful wife murdered in their home, Natalie becomes embroiled in a case that will change her life and the dynamics of the entire town. Almost two decades ago I read Alice Blanchard’s “Darkness Peering” and I remember it as a great read. Therefore I was excited to receive a copy of her latest novel to see how her writing has evolved.

Once again she has written an engaging story with well defined characters. Her plot was compelling and the setting picturesque. All good, right?  For some unidentifiable reason, I found myself enjoying the story, but not the execution of the story. I was invested enough in the protagonist and the plot to really want to know how the story ended, yet I found myself skimming parts. Skimming is something I rarely do, and it is usually a ‘red flag’ to me – letting me know that my reading experience is somehow lacking. Perhaps it is just my own personal frame of mind, but even though it ‘ticked all the boxes’ for a stellar read for me, it just didn’t quite fulfill my expectations.

The ending reveal of ‘whodunnit’ came as a surprise to me, but I felt it was a bit contrived – aimed to shock the reader.  I feel it could have been a remarkable thriller, and I’m quite certain that many readers will feel it is. It just wasn’t for me. “Trace of Evil” is the first novel in a prospective series featuring Natalie Lockhart. This is probably one series I will not pursue. I must state that my opinion is in the minority as this novel has received many stellar reviews.

I rated this novel at 3.5 stars and rounded down for Goodreads and rounded up for Amazon as the two sites have drastically different meanings behind their star ratings.

My thanks to Minotaur Books/Macmillan Publishing for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this novel via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.

ISBN: 9781250205711
384 pages

ALICE BLANCHARD is the award-winning author of five novels. She has received a PEN Award, a New Letters Literary Award, a Centrum Artists-in-Residence Fellowship, and a Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. Her debut novel, Darkness Peering, was a New York Times’ Notable Book and a Barnes & Noble Best Mystery book. Her work has been published in 17 countries.

Follow Alice Blanchard on Twitter.


About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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5 Responses to “Trace of Evil” by Alice Blanchard – Book Review

  1. gayebooklady says:

    I was happy to see Alice Blanchard had a new release. Unfortunately, skimming is something I have had to do several times in 2019 and I would prefer not to again. We have much the same taste so I will give this title a pass! Thanks Lynne!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Gaye. I was quite disappointed as I had high hopes for this novel. The excessive attention given to mundane details and non essential conversations made it a longer read than necessary.


  2. Ah, an interesting description of your feelings for this one. Sometimes they just don’t work for us like they seem to do for others. That’s okay and you’ve more than adequately explained those reasons why.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. James McEwan says:

    Where do you find the time to read so much?
    You made two important points (for me) in this book review. You found yourself skimming – therefore, the reader engagement was missing and so the ending felt contrived perhaps to shock the reader – hence a disappointment.
    Great stuff: although not all readers may agree.
    In my novel it was important to keep something of interest on every page that had the character struggle with the main conflict. (I have completed one novel – hey, I must be an expert – still learning).


  4. Right, skimming is a telltale sign. I’ve done some skimming with one or two books this year.

    Two people strongly recommended that I read The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. It’ll be the next book I read.


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