Book Review: Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard Book 2)

Book Cover from Amazon

Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard Book 2) by Melissa F. Olson


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.



Such an improvement over the first book.

The world-building in Dead Spots felt generic except for the addition of a null crime scene cleaner. In the second book, Trail of Dead (Scarlett Bernard), the uniqueness of the world – a labyrinth of a new mythology building on the boring cinderblock foundation of the first – has come to life. Suddenly the series is looking interesting.

I should note that in the first book, the establishing scene defining her abilities and specialty magic involves the cleanup of a bird. The effect and non-effects of her null abilities as established there are important in the second case. Not that you need to read the first book to enjoy the second. Just the two situations together made some very good world-building.

For the second book, the main character becomes more engaging, as she moves beyond her damage and takes control of her life. The murder mystery felt more urgent. In the first book, the urgency felt artificially enforced. In the second book, the ticking clock device felt real. Like the rush of an oncoming car.

The downside is the Romantic Heroes both remain neutered – and I had hoped the policeman would wander off with his new love interest so we can stick with the more interesting combo of Scarlett and the regions’ second-in-command werewolf (who needs to work on being an “Alpha” male hero). Hopefully in the next book the author will figure out how to make toes curl from the romance as well as the mystery.

Anyway, many of the issues that made the first book only so-so have been fixed. I can only hope to see a similar jump in the next book. Where the first book only felt worn-out, the second book now feels like a comfortable pair of worn-out jeans. I am hoping the third book will be like a comfortable pair of jeans that hugs every curve – in other words, the perfect Urban Fantasy book.