“Natalie Lockhart gained unwanted notoriety when she and her family became front and center of not one but two sensational murder cases. Now she’s lost her way. Burned-out and always looking over her shoulder, Natalie desperately thinks that quitting the police force is her only option left. All that changes when a beloved resident – a practicing Wiccan and founder of the town’s oldest coven – is killed in a fashion more twisted and shocking than Natalie has ever seen before, leaving the town reeling. Natalie has no choice but to help solve the case along with Detective Luke Pittman, her boss and the old childhood friend she cannot admit she loves, even to herself. There is a silent, malignant presence in Burning Lake that will not rest. And what happens next will shock the whole town, and Natalie, to the core.”
The Witching Tree was a great follow up to book two, Thread of Evil, which I read a few months ago. It picks up pretty much where the story left off, with Natalie in a new relationship and struggling with the consequences of having been the center of two high-profile murder cases.
Not only were the cases sensationalized in the press, but they were personal to Natalie and have wrecked havoc on her emotionally. Her close friend Luke Pittman insists that Natalie take a back seat to future cases, but Natalie doesn’t want to work in the background when she can be doing more to help solve cases.
The case in question now is particularly gruesome and sets the book off on a dark tone. The victim’s death is at once in-your-face and a total mystery as to how it happened. As the synopsis mentions, the victim was a beloved resident of Burning Lake and Natalie and Luke can’t imagine who her enemies would be, if any, and why her murder was committed in such a personal and horrific way.
After that first chapter, there is not too much more gruesomeness going on in the story. We follow Natalie as she reluctantly throws herself into the case, despite her desires to leave the force altogether. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that she even thought of leaving. It just wasn’t what I expected of her character after reading about her tenacity and drive in the last two books. It was a realistic consideration, I suppose, after the way her life was torn apart by the last two cases.
Burning Lake again comes alive on the page and feels like a real place. The historical prominence of witch trials is as much a part of the town as anything, and the Witching Tree plays a significant role in the story. The town lives by its history and almost all of the residents can quote the famous sayings or even the last words of some of the women who were wrongfully condemned for witchcraft.
“Do not stare too long at the Witching Tree,
Defile it not, or cursed you will be.”from The Witching Tree by Alice Blanchard
Her relationship with Luke remains fuzzy for several reasons, and the fact that she is all he has left and vice versa adds to her complicated feelings for wanting him to remain in her life but only as a friend.
The case takes many turns and ultimately reveals more questions than answers. It turns out to be bigger than any of them expected, ending on a questioning note of just how big the crime against the victim was and how many people were really involved.
We get another cliff-hanger ending, this time with more ambiguity than before, which had me on the edge of my seat and now wondering how things will play out in the next book.
I purposely tried not to write any spoilers here because if you even slightly think you will read this series, I highly recommend reading the first two books first, and in order. There is no way you will appreciate the story at-large without having an understanding of Natalie’s past, and her relationship with Luke.
I am eagerly awaiting book four!