In Book Reviews, Fantasy

Trail of Dead

Author: Melissa F. Olson
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Format: ARC
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: June 4, 2013 
Recommended Reading: 17+

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OVERALL THOUGHTS: This is the second in a series.  The story seems to be improving since the first book Dead Spots.  A pretty good premise for the story, descent love interests, and a good mindless quick read to hold you over until something better comes out.  However, be warned, the heroine is not particularly smart. She’s a bit emotionally stunted from past trauma. Though she is not a perpetual damsel in distress, she is not kick-ass, and let’s be honest, it is always preferable that the heroine kicks ass.

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SYNOPSIS: 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.


THE LOWDOWN: Well the premise of the story is that the heroine, Scarlett,  works for the witches, vamps, and werewolves in Las Angeles, California.  She cleans up questionable scenes resulting from supernatural tomfoolery.  This job might be as mild as covering up the fact that a werewolf got after someone’s backyard chickens or as serious as disposing of dead bodies.  Scarlett is a Null which means that within her vicinity witches can’t do magic and vamps and werewolves become human.  Nulls are supposed to be ideal candidates for cleaning type jobs.  While I’m not convinced that job couldn’t be done just as well by a human or a witch, I see how Scarlett’s talents help protect her when she starts becoming more detective and less cleanup crew.

Scarlett’s old mentor, Olivia, is bat poop crazy and starts to come after her.  The supernatural big wigs of LA decide they are going to protect their little Null and surround her with bodyguards.  Even so, Scarlett manages to get herself into a whole mess of trouble.  The sleuthing Scarlett does is pretty entertaining and she does a few things by the end of the book that shows she is brave and empathetic.

My main issue with Scarlett is that she is so much less than the heroines I’m used to.  She only has a high school education, which is fine, but she also admits to not asking questions or thinking critically.  She mostly just follows directions until someone she cares about is in danger, then she throws herself into a fight with bravery if not smarts. She doesn’t train in martial arts or weaponry.  The only concession she makes to the fact that she puts herself in dangerous situations on a regular basis is running four miles a day.  I’m just used to my heroines taking life more seriously.

Also, Scarlett has a pretty messed up history which has left her emotionally stunted.  Whenever someone gets close to her she pushes them away.  I get it.  I understand why she is doing it but it still makes me want to shake her.  You know that moment in Sex and The City where Carrie throws her relationship with Aiden away not once but twice and you just want to slap her and yell “What’s wrong with you!!”?   Well, I feel a bit like that with Scarlett.  She has a great love interest, Eli, who is very sweet but she pushes him away.  In fact, they have this really great moment near the beginning of the book and then he gets pushed to the background of the story until the very end.  I don’t like it.  Jess, a detective and the other love interest, is also a great guy.  By the end of the book, he starts to get off his high horse and gives in to his feelings for Scarlett.  We shall see how that pans out.

On a side note, Saturday Night Live has a skit they do where they make fun of Los Angelenos referencing street names and directions whenever they tell a story and it’s pretty hilarious. You should check it out. The author also seems to feel like including street names, neighborhoods, traffic, and travel time regularly throughout the story is necessary.  Not being from LA, I don’t really get it.

FINAL THOUGHTS: It’s not a bad book.  It’s simple and engaging enough for me to get frustrated with the characters.  I’ll probably read the next book when it comes out because, let’s face it, it’s hard walking away when you’re two books in.

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