Author: Melissa F. Olson
Published: June 4, 2013
Paperback, 295 pages
Summary from Goodreads: As a null, Scarlett Bernard possesses a rare ability to counteract the supernatural by instantly neutralizing spells and magical forces. For years she has used her gift to scrub crime scenes of any magical traces, helping the powerful paranormal communities of Los Angeles stay hidden. But after LAPD detective Jesse Cruz discovered Scarlett’s secret, he made a bargain with her: solve a particularly grisly murder case, and he would stay silent about the city’s unearthly underworld.
Now two dead witches are found a few days before Christmas, and Scarlett is once again strong-armed into assisting the investigation. She soon finds a connection between the murders and her own former mentor, Olivia, a null who mysteriously turned into a vampire and who harbors her own sinister agenda. Now Scarlett must revisit her painful past to find Olivia—unless the blood-drenched present claims her life first.
I received a copy of Trail of Dead from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And if I’m being honest, this was probably the most excited that I’ve been to receive an ARC to read and review!!!
My favorite part, hands down, of Trail of Dead is that we get to learn more about our main character, Miss Scarlett Bernard. Yes, Scarlett can kick butt and get a job done, but she’s a sad, lost girl who needs a true friend to be there for her. My character review of Scarlett in Dead Spots didn’t pick up on the things that seem obvious to me now (I will have to reread Dead Spots before book 3!) Dashiell (my fav), Kirsten, and Will, the supernatural leaders of the Los Angeles area, all respect their favorite null/cleaner, and all of them show concern for her well being. What stood out to me more was not Scarlett’s sense of humor or casual/cool style, but how confused and damaged she is. Without giving any spoilers…. Scarlett thinks that her existence and null abilities are the culprit for lots of bloodshed. She blames herself for several deaths, including her parents, and doesn’t know that her roommate Molly or “boyfriend” Eli care about her or if they care about what being around her does for their supernatural selves. She’s lonely, and she doesn’t know if she belongs in the supernatural world or the human world. A hardened exterior and some snarky jokes try to mask the hurt that she is harboring underneath her cool disposition. Her new found skill confuses the heck out of her, and I’m excited to continue to see what else she’ll learn about it.
The love triangle is still there, but I think it seems obvious who Scarlett would like to be with. Mr. Cop (Jesse) has strong feelings for Scarlett, but he can’t get over what she does for her profession. Cleaning up supernatural crime scenes goes against what he believes in as a detective and as a person, so it puts him in an awkward position. His refusal to accept Scarlett for what she does adds to her self punishment. Eli wants to be with Scarlett… he wants to hold her and be with her always. But Scarlett still isn’t sure if he truly wants to be with her. This doubt that Scarlett carries puts stress on their relationship.
Trail of Dead isn’t one of those sexy-times paranormal romance novels – in fact, there isn’t much romantic “action” at all. It’s an Urban Fantasy series that puts more emphasis on world building, intricate plots, and complex characters. With Scarlett being so vulnerable and the way that the plot unfolded, there simply wasn’t enough time to fit in extra hookups!
Trail of Dead is told mostly from Scarlett’s point of view, but every few chapters, we hear from Jesse Cruz’s point of view as well. It was a good way to find out clues as to what the villains were planning, since Scarlett and Jesse aren’t together the whole time (and to see what Jesse thinks about the supernatural world and Scarlett…) We also got to see how Jesse’s love life had been after we left off in Dead Spots. It was interesting, but I wasn’t thrilled to hear about him with a yoga bunny after things didn’t work out with Scar-bear! I wish that we could see what Eli thinks from time to time, too! In The Mortal Instruments series, we get to hear from all three parts of the love triangle 🙂 I preferred hearing the story told from Scarlett’s point of view, mostly because I feel like she has more relevance to the whole background story. I liked the plot in Trail of Dead as much as I liked Dead Spots. They both have the same creeptastic, bloody crime scene that begs the question… what the heck happened!? And then they dive right into what could have caused such a thing to happen… and why? Trail of Dead builds on the
major cliffhanger that we were left with in Dead Spots, but there are many more mysteries to uncover as the story moves along. Sometimes, I found myself a little confused on all of the names of the special witch artifacts, but I think I kept up!
It was obvious that Olson put a lot of research into her writing, and that really helped with the world building come together. Her tidbits on the areas of LA (the traffic down to the weather and how people dress), supernatural artifacts and history (OK, I did not google to see if there is any history behind this, but it was believable enough to me!), and Jesse’s job as a detective (we got to hear more about the day to day paper pushing aspect of the job, and not just yellow tape and crime scenes). It’s impressive. I can tell that Olson loves what she is doing, and I thought she had Scarlett, Jesse, and Olivia’s and most of the rest of the gang’s characters down very well. After finishing Trail of Dead, I think Scarlett is a bit like an onion (Shrek shout out!), because she is complex, one of a kind, and a bit of a lost soul. There’s so much to her that she internalizes, and we keep finding more and more about her. I can’t wait to see what Olson has in store for Scarlett, (and Jesse and Eli and everyone else, too!) Can’t wait for book 3!!!
I will be featuring an exclusive interview with Melissa in the near future, so stay tuned!
Thank you again to Melissa and to 47th North for allowing me to read and review!