Book Review: Trace of Evil

Trace of EvilTrace of Evil (Natalie Lockhart #1) by Alice Blanchard

A riveting mystery that introduces a bold and audacious rookie detective assigned to hunt for a killer who is haunted by the past in this gripping murder case…

Natalie Lockhart always knew she was going to be a cop. A rookie detective on the Burning Lake police force, she was raised on the wisdom of her chief-of-police father. These cases will haunt you if you let them. Grief doesn’t come with instructions.

But the one thing her father couldn’t teach her was how to handle loss. Natalie’s beloved sister was viciously murdered as a teenager, and she carries the scars deep in her heart. Although the killer was locked up, the trace evidence never added up, and Natalie can’t help wondering―is the past really behind her?

As the newest member on the force, Natalie is tasked with finding nine missing persons who’ve vanished off the face of the earth, dubbed “the Missing Nine.” One night, while following up on a new lead, she comes across a savage crime that will change everything.

Daisy Buckner―a popular schoolteacher, wife to a cop, and newly pregnant―lies dead on her kitchen floor. As Natalie hunts for Daisy’s killer in the wake of the town’s shock, her search leads to a string of strange clues―about the Missing Nine, about Daisy’s secret life, and reviving fresh doubts about her sister’s murder.

As the investigation deepens, Natalie’s every move risks far-reaching consequences―for the victims, for the town of Burning Lake, and for herself.

Spellbinding and gripping, Trace of Evil is a novel of twisting suspense that will leave you breathless.

Review:
The premise of this book was great and there was a lot that was interesting about it. However, I also found that for some reason, the book dragged a bit for me. There were a lot of story lines and they were interesting and the author wove it all together really well.
I even liked the characters. Natalie is interesting and tenacious. I loved her niece.
I think there was just a lot of “info dumping”. There were lots of long passages of telling background, instead of weaving it in. Also, there was a lot of repetition.
Still, this is a promising start to a detective series.
Thank you to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for the review copy.
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Book Review: Kingdom of the Blind

Book Review: Kingdom of the Blind

Kingdom of the BlindKingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #14) by Louise Penny

The entrancing new crime thriller featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, from number one New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny

When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him as an executor of her will.

Armand never knew the elderly woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional – until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into the events that led to his suspension has dragged on, and Armand is taking increasingly desperate measures to rectify previous actions. As he does, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots – and the terrible things hiding there.

Review:

I enjoy this series and this book was good, but not great for me. I got tired with all of the sentence fragments and the constant refrain of “junkies, whores, and trannies”. All of those words are outdated so were hard to take. I also didn’t really enjoy the good looking versus the ugly contrast going on with some of the characters. The story, however, was interesting and the mystery was a good one. I liked the play on the word “blind” throughout the book. The conclusion was set up well.

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Book Review: All That’s Bright and Gone

All That's Bright and GoneAll That’s Bright and Gone: A Novel by Eliza Nellums

Fans of Jodi Picoult and Fredrik Backman will fall for this tenderhearted debut mystery following a young girl on a quest to save her family.

I know my brother is dead. But sometimes Mama gets confused.

Six-year-old Aoife knows better than to talk to people no one else can see, like her best friend Teddy who her mother says is invisible. He’s not, but Mama says it’s rude anyways. So when Mama starts talking to Aoife’s older brother Theo, Aoife is surprised. And when she stops the car in the middle of an intersection, crying and screaming, Aoife gets a bad feeling–because even if they don’t talk about it, everyone knows Theo died a long time ago. He was murdered.

Eventually, Aoife is taken home by her Uncle Donny who says he’ll stay with her until Mama comes home from the hospital, but Aoife doesn’t buy it. The only way to bring Mama home is to find out what really happened to Theo. Even with Teddy by her side, there’s a lot about the grown-up world that Aoife doesn’t understand, but if Aoife doesn’t help her family, who will?

Between Aoife’s vivid imagination and her steadfast goal, All That’s Bright and Gone illuminates the unshakable bond between mothers and daughters in an increasingly unstable world.

Review:
This was an interesting book. Told from 6 year old Aoife’s point of view, we learn about her mother’s mental illness, the struggles of her family, and the loss of her brother. Aoife isn’t exactly an unreliable narrator, but definitely one with limited understanding, which makes the story all that more interesting.
Because the story is told from a child’s point of view, the narrative is honest, innocent, and can often make interesting leaps. Aoife knows that her brother is dead, does not question her mother’s strange behaviour, and has an imaginary friend.
Nellums does a great job of getting into the head of a six year old. The writing feels authentic and not at all condescending. I found myself drawn into this girl’s world, trying to solve the mystery with her. As an adult reader we can see how Aoife is interpreting or misinterpreting some of the adult behaviour and this definetly adds to the tension and suspense of the book. We, like Aoife, just want to find out what really happened to her brother.
Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the review copy.
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Book Review: The Fragments

The Fragments by Toni Jordan 

INGA Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book— and a mystery that has captivated generations of readers.

Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman.

The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist—and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine.

Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane, she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.

Review:
The Fragments tells 2 stories, separated by time and location, but are intertwined in an unexpected way.
Caddie grew up with and loved Inga Karlson’s one iconic novel. Inga died in a terrible fire before her second novel could be published. All that is left are some fragments. At an exhibit about Inga’s life and work, Caddie comes across an elderly woman who quotes a line from Inga’s work that does not appear in any of the existing fragments, thus the mystery begins. Caddie is sure that there is something going on and she works tirelessly to figure out the truth.
The novel alternates between Caddie’s life in present day Australia where she investigates what really happened to Inga, to the story of Rachel in America, a friend of Inga’s.
The story is lovely and I enjoyed learning about all of the women involved, from the shy Rachel, to the eccentric Inga, and the tormented Caddie. Their lives were woven together masterfully. The one thing that bothered me were Caddie’s decisions sometimes — they seemed strange and more designed to further the plot than feel authentic. However, the ending and good writing more than makes up for any shortfalls.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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