A small town is about to be rocked by a murder of one of their own, and everyone in town is a suspect:
Burning Lake is an interesting town that has connection a sordid past with hanging witches, and this fact means that witchcraft and forming a coven is something that the locals, mainly teenagers, drift towards. Natalie Lockhart is a rookie detective who handed the Missing Nine, nine people who have disappeared from Burning Lake over several years and with each new detectives who is promoted they give fresh eyes to the decade or older cases. However, Natalie is about to be handed one of the toughest cases that would fall onto any detective's desk, the murder of someone you know and the wife of a cop, Daisy Buckner. As the investigation deepens Natalie gets more suspects the more evidence that is found and the risks get higher and higher.
While I was reading this book, I was totally convinced that it was a debut novel, I was surprised that it was not. While the plot and main character seemed laid out there were some what I think basic details missed that would have changed this book from a good read to an amazing one, aka The Devil is in the Details. This book would have been such a stronger book and story if Blanchard would have done some extra research about police officers, their culture and some general forensic information. Even a google search would have helped her with these details. So I guess i'll deal with the no so good first and then get to the good.
First off, police do not carry pagers any more, everyone has smart phones and that is what they would use if you are on call. Police Department will issue the officers a work phone for this purpose so there would not be a rotating pager for whomever is on call that night. Can you think of how many times a rotating pager would get lost? Second, if you take a bullet in your vest you will have to replace that vest as it has been compromised, you would no longer be safe if you were to take another bullet to the vest. Sure you can keep it but it would have to be replaced as it would be no longer safe to wear it but it would probably have been needed to be taken into evidence first as part of the proof about the shot as well as to obtain the bullet out of it.
Thirdly, there is a lot of emphasis on time of death. Time of death is the least precise forensic out there, there are too many factors that can affect when a person was killed. Simply asking the coroner or pathologist when the person died shows a lack of research, they cannot narrow it down to hours, more like days. Additionally when Natalie enters the house and states that she could smell the dead body, this is not true, decomposition of the body where a smell occurs does not normally happen within the first few hours of death, it begins two to three days after as it takes a bit for the bacteria within your Body to start breaking it down for food which in turn releases gas. I was able to find most of this out with a basic google search so I feel that Blanchard could have done that as well. Blanchard did get more to the right track when she started to try and figure out what Daisy had done that day and who had seen her last but this is later in the book. Lastly, you as a police officer always always secure the suspect(s) and scene first, yes you can save a person if they need saving but once that is done after you secure your suspect(s), if you don’t there is still a risk to you and the victim that could lead to even more dire consequences. You don’t know what other weapons that may arise by you not securing them. I feel like this aspect is common sense.
Alright now to the good part. WOW, what a plot and story, I did not have everything figured out till the very end, there were too many suspects in this small town where everyone and everything and everyone are interconnected. God, I love small town books and Burning Lake is no exception. I appreciate that Blanchard kept this book to one murder, one who done it, with the historical cases also being investigated. i think sometime the plot and book becomes too muddied with so many homicides that all interconnected and even though there was only one recent murder to investigate that didn't mean I was able to figure everything out, it was a great twisty, did not see that coming ending, which is always amazing when that occurs.
Burning Lake is an interesting town and it has the reputation for burning (though the actually hung them) witches just like Salem did and the town uses this as their “claim to fame”. This also means that people dabbling in witchcraft is a common theme amount the youth and this creates a whole different avenue if investigation for the police department. This book is set in our time in our world so the whole witch thing is more wishful thinking but it does not mean that people, mainly teens, aren’t willing to try a spell or two, however, witchcraft needs to be considered with every crime that is committed. This adds an extremely unique perspective in this book and one that I have not read before outside of the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal genres. It appears that Blanchard did so research on witchcraft as she talks about symbols, knots, spells and what those spells hope to achieve and I found it all very fascinating.
Natalie is an interesting character, she’s smart, know how to play the game and really caring about her family and those who shew grew up with. Even the lady who had a psychotic break and ends up on the street, Natalie is there if she needs help. It never seems like Natalie gets exhausted with trying to juggle all her cases and family life, she just keeps going and going with little sleep, so maybe she is a super human detective. There is a hint of a romance to come, it kind of became redundant throughout the book (oh i've liked him forever, maybe now will be the time he makes a move ect) and I don’t think the book or plot needed it as it doesn't really add anything to the murder investigation or story.
Don't get me wrong, overall I enjoyed this book. I feel like Blanchard likes the idea of writing from the point of view of a rookie detective but lacked the knowledge or research about police, police culture and investigations to really pull some of this book off. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the plot and story that Blanchard laid out in this book and the small town setting. I would read another book from Blanchard and if she were to release another book featuring Burning Lake and Natalie.