In Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson, Evie Blackwell is an Illinois State Police detective helping test out the possibility of a new task force dedicated to reexamining cold cases. To that end she comes to small town Carin. The disappearance of a policeman and his family as well as the disappearance of a small girl have been unsolved for years. A fresh pair of eyes and an objective point of view should aid in coming up with new angles and questions and hopefully new trails of evidence to solve the case.
Evie’s primary contact is Gabriel Thane, Carin’s sheriff. He makes sure she has everything she needs, from case files to work space to food, answers questions, and considers possibilities of the cases with her. He loves his job, the town, and his close-knit family.
Meanwhile Gabriel’s brother, Josh, receives news that an old friend – in fact, the only girl he ever had feelings for – is coming back to town and will need his help. Learning what she needs and the reason for it is gut-wrenching, but he and his whole family are willing to help, and he hopes he can begin to reestablish a relationship with her.
Ann and Paul Falcon of Dee’s earlier book Full Disclosure make appearances here: Ann is something of the connector for various people in the story. I don’t remember if Gabriel was in any of Dee’s earlier books or not, but here they have a full-fledged working relationship and history. A few other characters from Dee’s most recent books are referenced as well.
The suspense in this story is not that of mile-a-minute action or edge-of-your-seat expectation: it’s more the suspense of puzzle-solving as Evie tugs on different threads to see which one unravels the case.
An attraction is growing between Evie and Gabriel, but they wonder if any kind of romance can thrive between a self-professed “woman of no small ambitions” and a small town sheriff committed to the area.
I always enjoy Dee, and this book is no exception. The cases themselves were intriguing, and I imagine a real-life cold case investigator would have to do much of what Evie did, examining evidence, coming up with and running down leads that don’t end up anywhere but that tip off other details or questions, before something leads to the right outcome.
I appreciate that the Christianity in the book is neither subtle or blatant. Characters do normal Christian things like pray and talk about spiritual issues, but they don’t preach at each other or the reader.
Evie receives a tantalizing offer near the end of the book, one that contributes to fulfilling her ambitions but does nothing to resolve her personal life. But this book is evidently the first in a series, with a sequel due out in May, so we’ll see where her next steps take her.