Set in the isolated small towns of upstate New York, the Natalie Lockhart novels from mystery author Alice Blanchard features an engaging rookie detective determined to uncover the community’s deeply held secrets, no matter what the cost. Filled with Wiccan symbols, an countless red herrings, these books are great for fans of women led crime series.
Book 1 | Trace of Evil
Minotaur books sent me a copy of book 2 of the Natalie Lockhart series back in September. I personally prefer to read books in order, even when the stories themselves are separate. Mainly, because I found that I can get to know the main character, or in this case detective better. I find I’m able to better sympathize with their flaws and overall just helps me to really understand the story better. Anyway, I decided to pick up Trace of Evil to kick off my journey into Natalie Lockhart’s life.
In Trace of Evil, Natalie Lockhart has just been promoted to detective. Her first case: solve a decades long case and find a potential serial killer. No big deal. The case assigned to Natalie is called The Missing Nine. Nine people that have gone missing from this sleep New England town in the past decade. But while starting her investigation, Natalie’s partner’s wife is murdered, her own sister’s murder comes rising back up from the past, and to top it off Natalie’s not sure anyone around her is telling the truth anymore.
Plot wise, this book is great. The Missing Nine cause ties in nicely to both the main murder case along with Natalie’s past. Combine that with a Salem town vibe, top with some Wicca covens, and you have got yourself a great murder mystery.
While I really enjoyed the story itself and the big ‘shock & awe’ bits of the story were great, the pacing was off for me. I need murder mysteries to either be slow burns or page turners. They can’t be a mix of both for me as it really impacts the atmosphere for me. Basically I’d be turning pages as quickly as I could, and then all of sudden we were on commercial break. It just did not jive for me. I also did not immediately like Natalie, the way other reviews did. She seemed to juvenile to be a detective to me but I digress.
This was an enjoyable mystery and it kept me entertained enough for me to want to pick up the second book. My only hope is that I get to know Natalie a bit more and see some growth in her, in The Wicked Hour.
Book 2 | The Wicked Hour
As I mentioned, book one of the Natalie Lockhart series left me wanting more from our lead character. It also left me with some series whiplash from the books pacing. I had like Trace of Evil enough though, that I decided to venture once more into Lockhart’s world.
One thing I like about detective series, and why I read them in order, is I really enjoy the character growth you see from the main protangist. The Wicked Hour is no different and really gave me what Trace of Evil lacked.
Month’s after learning the true cause of her sister’s death, Lockhart is back on duty and stumbles upon the body of a young women. No one knows who she is, she carries no ID, has violinist calluses and a Wicca tattoo . As Lockhart works to understand who this women is and why she died, old wounds from when her best friend left without a trace starts to fester. because wasn’t her own best friend a talented violinist who mysterious disappeared from the same town.
Lockhart’s had a tough life, with a missing best friend and a murdered sister. While we learn more about her sister in Trace of Evil it’s not until this book that we really understand the significant of the her best friend missing years before. Blanchard gave me what I needed from book 1 here, and really helped me to start to see Lockhart resilient and determined women. But while she’s strong, Lockhart’s faults and vulnerabilities are not totally erased, which I always think makes characters much more realistic.
Once again the plot is great and I love the Salem witches type vibe from the town of Burning Lake. The pacing was much better in the second Natalie Lockhart book than the first and for that I am a happy camper. I definitely enjoyed this one more than Trace of Evil and am really looking forward to the next installment.
The Wicked Hour is out now. Huge thank you to Minotaur Books for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.