I've been a fan of Catherine McKenzie from her first book. She's just released her fifth novel - Smoke. Each of the previous four books have been completely different reads - I never know what to expect when I start one of her books. But what I do know is that I'm going to enjoy it.
Elizabeth fought wildfires as a profession for over ten years, travelling to where she was needed. Its taken a toll on her personal life though. So, now she stays put, living with her husband in a quiet mountain town in the Rockies. Instead, she works as an investigator for the town's attorney. But when an out of control fire threatens the entire town, her skills as an arson investigator are called into play again.
Elizabeth's ex-friend Mindy is also worried about the fire. She knows something is 'off' with her teenage son - and has been for quite a while. And whether or not she wants to admit it, she wonders if he might have had something to do with starting the fire.
Smoke is told in alternating chapters from both women. I really enjoy dual narrative novels - a second look at a same event and/or two stories that will intersect farther down the road as more is revealed.
Although the fire is the stage for the novel, there's much more to Smoke. The personal lives of Elizabeth and Mindy are explored - motherhood, friendship, love, marriage and secrets. While Elizabeth is the 'lead' character, I found myself more drawn to Mindy. I didn't like Elizabeth's secret keeping from her husband - and her justification for those choices. Mindy has made some questionable choices as well, but I was more inclined to forgive her. Her 'redemption', if you will, appealed to me more. McKenzie does a great job of creating a 'mean girls' group that Mindy hangs out with. (But I do want to know what happened to the siphoned library money?) The petulant and aggressive teens are also well drawn.
The mystery of who started the fire runs through the entire book of course. I did have the 'whodunit' sussed out before the end, but quite enjoyed the journey to the final reveal. The fire, the methods used to fight it and the mindset of a firefighter were well researched and believable.
I'm always intrigued by cover choices and titles. I'm not overwhelmed with this cover, but the title made me think of the old adage - "Where there's smoke, there's fire." And its applicable in so many ways to much of the plot line and many of the characters in Smoke.
Smoke is another engaging, easy read from McKenzie. Those who enjoy contemporary women's fiction with a touch of mystery will enjoy Smoke. Get a sneak peek - read an excerpt of Smoke.
A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine’s novels, Spin, Arranged, Forgotten and Hidden, are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages, including French, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Slovakian and Czech. Hidden was also a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Bookworld bestseller. She has also published a novella, Spun, which is a sequel to Spin. She is currently at work on her sixth novel, which is expected to be published in 2016. Visit her online at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.