Traces of Guilt, by Dee Henderson (Bethany House, 2016)
Evie Blackwell has a different take on cold cases: the intervening years are a bonus, because they’re full of opportunities for the criminal to have left further clues to this and other crimes. Her approach is methodical and effective, and her time in Illinois’ Carin County is a test-run for a soon-to-be-announced cold case task force.
Her two assignments: an abducted child, and a missing family. The child belonged to a family who were passing through, but the family were local. In both cases, the locals are reluctant to revisit past pain if all it brings is more disappointment.
Long-time fans of Dee Henderson will recognize beloved characters from her previous works: Ann Silver and Paul Falcon. The Thane family sounds like they’ve appeared before, too. Everyone was new to me, and other than being a bit confused by the references to so many key people in the first chapter or two, I was fine.
One challenge about solving cold cases is that in the re-thinking and new investigating, multiple possibilities must be considered before the truth is found – if it can be found. These two cases bring up others, which may or may not be related and which may show up in future books in the series.
Although this is a romantic suspense series, for this first book those relationships are more in the cautiously-developing stages. That’s one benefit of a series: love doesn’t have to be instant.
Relationships are a key part of the novel – friendship and families more so than romance. This adds the heart to balance the mental, puzzle-solving aspects of the police work.
Traces of Guilt provides a twisting plot and deeply-drawn characters to care about, and it kept me turning pages. I did find that one character who appeared near the end seemed too coincidental in terms of age, and the key players have a jarring habit of referring to one another by name far too often, the way people do when they’re trying to sell you something.
This is the Evie Blackwell Cold Case series, but clearly the Carin County sheriff, Gabriel Thane, will be an ongoing connection no matter where Evie’s work takes her. All three Thane brothers make appealing romantic leads, and we may see more of the other two in future books as well.
Dee Henderson is a long-time favourite author in the Christian romantic suspense genre, and Traces of Guilt is sure to be well received. For more about the author and her books, visit www.deehenderson.com.