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Smoke Paperback – October 20, 2015
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Elizabeth Martin had dedicated a decade to fighting fires and investigating arson prior to settling down with her husband, Ben Martin, in a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. A human-caused forest fire unsettles her and the other residents, and over the course of six days, Elizabeth helps review the evidence and protect the town, meanwhile attempting to salvage her marriage and rekindle a relationship with her former best friend, Mindy Mitchell. Who is the arsonist? John Phillips, a 67-year-old widow who has lost his foreclosed home to the blaze? Tucker Wells, a high-school student who frequently loiters on Phillips’s property with his gang? Angus Mitchell, Mindy’s teenage son and Tucker’s classmate, who knows (but won’t tell) what actually occurred the night the fire started? A fiery, suspenseful story inspired by a similar crisis the author’s close friend experienced, McKenzie’s fifth novel assesses the flame resistance of bonds shared by family, friends, and community. Pages keep on turning, questions keep on burning, as Smoke wafts up from between the covers to consume readers. —Nicole Misic
Named by Amazon a Best Book of 2015
Named by Goodreads a Best Book of October 2015
“Smoke has everything Catherine McKenzie's fans will want from her new novel—beautiful pacing, a thick plot, suspense, characters you'll love, and intricate relationships. In other words, everything that'll keep you turning pages.” —Bustle
“With a deft, sure hand, Catherine McKenzie explores the complicated and sometimes conflicting ties of friendship and family. Immensely readable and emotionally resonant.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
“Coupled with strained relationships and family dynamics, Catherine McKenzie captivates the reader with her fluent writing, which is vivid and evocative, yet effortless to read.” —Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby
“Catherine McKenzie’s Smoke is a marvel, a mystery that portrays relationships with subtlety, small-town life with precision, and reveals the world of the fire obsessed—for evil and for good. Smoke smolders with tension, sizzles with intelligence, and you won’t put it down until the air has been cleared and the last page turned.” —Robin Black, author of Life Drawing
“Smoke is an exquisitely composed portrait of people in an extreme situation, navigating the metaphorical fires they’ve created and a literal one they need to contain. I fell in love with these shades-of-gray characters and their authentically portrayed need for change and relief. Commercial fiction at its finest.” —Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and The Moon Sisters
“Catherine McKenzie’s Smoke is as hot as the wildfire that serves as the novel’s backdrop. As one couple tries to sort through their issues, temperatures rise until the air is clouded with mistrust, and blame runs amok through an entire community, leaving her characters no choice but to fight for what—and whom—they love. This is domestic drama at its best!” —Kathryn Craft, author of The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy
“Smoke is a sizzling page-turner with wonderfully flawed and human characters and a riveting plot portraying both the terror and the attraction of playing with fire. So engrossing and real it will leave the reader smelling smoke on their clothes, this is Catherine McKenzie’s best book yet.” —Kathleen McCleary, author of Leaving Haven
“McKenzie’s mesmerizing page-turner about a raging forest fire that may—or may not—conceal a crime will keep you up way past bedtime. Part mystery, part roller-coaster read about secrets and trust and the complexities of marriage and friendship, Smoke is guaranteed to stimulate lively book club discussion.” —Barbara Claypole White, award-winning author of The In-Between Hour and The Perfect Son
“Smoke is an engaging and readable novel for those who enjoy suspenseful women’s fiction.” —Authorlink
“In Smoke, Catherine McKenzie nimbly delivers believably flawed characters, a plot layered with broken trust, suspense, secrets, and spot-on pacing. Smoke beautifully meshes mystery, complex relationships, and a love story that will keep readers turning pages and generate thought-provoking book club discussions.” —New York Journal of Books
“A deftly crafted novel that is a thoroughly absorbing read from beginning to end, Smoke showcases author Catherine McKenzie’s truly impressive storytelling talents. An exceptional entertainment from first page to last.” —Midwest Book Review
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The protagonists, Elizabeth and Mindy, had formerly been best friends before a hurtful exchange of words destroyed their relationship. I immediately fell in love with Elizabeth. What a complex character she is. Her passion in life is something I never understood: she loves fighting the fires. With her marriage in tatters after she asks husband Ben for a divorce almost out of the blue, the situation changes when they are forced to relocate because of the fire. Ben seems as confused as I was when she was unable to resist the challenge of firefighting. Despite lack of communication and another major hurdle, Ben and Elizabeth, when not bickering, seem to love each other. The divorce is Elizabeth's idea, but her heart pulls her in one direction while her mind pulls the other way.
Mindy, now part of the in-crowd, is obsessed with her two children. When Elizabeth, also an arson investigator, determines that the fire was set, Mindy's world turns upside down. Her teenaged son has been acting strangely for months and suspicions fall on a group of kids who sneak out at night and are known to hang out near the origin of the fire. Mindy and her husband have their own suspicions, and she irrationally blames herself. She spends her life striving for perfection and has few coping skills when things go awry.
What an ending the reader has to look forward to! I usually pride myself at guessing what comes in the last chapter, but Catherine McKenzie completely fooled me. Smoke is a book of action, strange relationships (I never quite figured out Ben, for example), trust, mistrust and mystery. What else could I ask for!
Elizabeth has an unconventional passion in life: she loves fighting fires. For some reason she just can't "let go" of anything relating to fires. It's in her blood, it's what she lives for. Ben, her husband, just can't understand why she is unable to resist the challenge of firefighting. Despite the lack of communication plus another major hurdle, Ben and Elizabeth, when not quarreling, seem to love each other. But with their marriage in bits and pieces, Elizabeth asks Ben for a divorce.
The divorce is Elizabeth's idea, but her heart pulls her in one direction while her mind pulls her the other way. Out of the blue, their situation changes when they are forced to relocate because of the fire that is threatening the small town in which they live.
Mindy is trying to be of the in-crowd and is obsessed with her two children. When Elizabeth, who is now an arson investigator, determines that the fire was set, Mindy's world turns upside down. Suspicions fall on a group of kids who like to sneak out at night and are known to hang out near the source of the fire. Her teenaged son has been acting strangely for months. Could he be hanging out with that group of kids? Was he there when the fire was set? Mindy and her husband have their own suspicions and she blames herself.
Catherine McKenzie perfectly chronicles the mounting fear that everyone in the path of a forest fire experiences. She creates beautiful wooded mountain pictures decorated with trails of multi-colored smoke in her exemplary writing. SMOKE is a multilayered story which grows as it progresses. It is a book of action, strange relationships, trust, mistrust and mystery. What an ending, you the reader, has to look forward to! I usually try to guess what may come in the last chapter, but this time I was completely off base.
Ben is somewhat of a mystery to me. He loves Liz but is complacent about the divorce. He was a sea of calm in the midst of the travesty of his marriage and the fire that threatens everything he holds dear. I kept waiting for Ben to explode in anger.
Then there is Mindy. We all know a Mindy, the person, who on the outside seems so organized and self-confident, but whose life is in shambles. She tries to do everything right, but lacks the confidence to carry through. She wants to be the perfect wife, mother, everything and worries that she is not.
The story is one of friendships, misunderstandings, mistrust, and lies. With all that is going on, is there a chance for forgiveness? Did the fire start by accident or arson? If it is arson, who started it? Why? There is so much action going on at any one time, there is plenty to keep the reader’s attention. Rest assured the author ties all of the story threads together in the end.
I’ve read every book Catherine McKenzie has published, and I can say unequivocally that Smoke is her best so far. If you enjoy a bit of romance, mystery, and a great storyline, Smoke is the book for you. I have to give this book 5 stars.
This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.