Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dee Henderson is back in 'Traces of Guilt'

Illinois native Dee Henderson is back! Her popular romantic suspense series, The O'Malley's made her a household name in the Christian fiction genre and were devoured by me and countless other fans.
I feel like I need to preface this review with a bit of a disclaimer. I consider myself to be a loyal fan of her works, but to be honest I struggled with her books that were written post-O'Malley series. When I had the opportunity to review her latest work I had mixed feeling. I was ecstatic, but concerned that her new book would be a trial to get through.

Traces of Guilt: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case was reminiscent of the O'Malley series and reminded me of why I like this author so much.My top 3 reasons of why I liked her O'Malley series were the dynamic, relatable characters, page turning stories, and the natural chemistry between the hero and heroine.  The top 3 issues I have with her books post-O'Malley are: her characters seem flat to me, the stories are interesting, but I feel they take too long to capture my interest, and I also felt the chemistry was lacking between the leads.

The moment Evie Blackwell appeared on the pages of Traces of Guilt I liked her.  She's tenacious, determined, has a passion for solving crimes, thinks outside the box, considers multiple scenarios, and isn't afraid to confront the person(s) responsible for the crime. Evie is an Illinois State Police detective and has arrived in Carin, IL  to head up a new task force to solve cold cases. 

Gabriel 'Gabe' Thane is a native of Carin and is now the town sheriff as his father was before him.  He's an all around steady, honest, hard-working great guy. He can be protective of the residents of Carin and the people he cares about.

Gabe and Evie had a natural and easy chemistry that builds into a strong friendship; hinting at a possible romance on the horizon. I liked that anytime Gabe visited Evie he always left behind a roll of Sweet Tarts. Gabe must have been subtle about it because she never realized he left the candy until he was gone. By the end of this story I was craving Sweet Tarts!

One minor issue I had with Traces of Guilt was the chapter length. Most if not all of the chapters were 20 plus pages long. I try to read for a few minutes each day and it would take me several sittings to get through one chapter. 
Because the chapters were lengthier, I did like that Ms. Henderson lists specific characters names throughout the chapter so that the reader realizes the shift in the story direction. This helped me to not be as confused and attempt to keep all the storylines straight. I would say there are 3 possible storylines plus Evie is working 2 separate cold cases so there's a total of about 5 different story lines to keep straight and a few of them are interwoven.

A couple of minor characters that were introduced in Traces of Guilt were Will and Joshua Thane, Gabe's younger brothers. Both Thane brothers have qualities similar to Gabe. It seemed to me that Ms. Henderson was using  Traces a Guilt as a spring board to introduce both Will and Joshua's stories. I hope that she'll continue in her new series and allow Will and Josh their own stories.

Another minor character that played a major role was Ann Falcon. She is featured in Full Disclosure. I have another confession, a few years ago, I attempted to read this book, but didn't finish it. After reading about Ann in Traces of Guilt, I'm inclined to give Full Disclosure another try. I liked Ann's ability to 'read' people and how discerning she is with confidential information. Her knowledge of certain characters sets elements of the story in motion. Another trait I noticed about Ann was that she never divulged these 'confidential stories' unless she had that person's permission to.

Traces of Guilt  made me feel like I was dropped in an episode of CSI or Law and Order: SVU with the way Ms. Henderson cuts back and forth between character dialogue and action and kept me turning pages long after I should have been asleep.

I liked that the ending of Traces of Guilt, wrapped up all the loose ends, but also leaves it open ended leaving the reader to hope for more Evie Blackwell cold cases in the near future.
If Dee Henderson is a new author to you, I would urge you read her page-turning O'Malley series first (There's a prequel, 6 books, plus a novella) and then check out her newest book Traces of Guilt.

~~ Traces of Guilt was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, for which I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone ~~