Today sparks the release of international best-selling author Catherine McKenzie’s SMOKE! And, we are delighted to welcome her work to A Reader’s Review Blog. Smoke is a contemporary mystery drama in Women’s Literature following two women who were once close friends, and whilst tackling the danger of a wildfire threatening their town, they also have the chance to reflect on their personal family problems, as well as their friendship. With many questions to be answered, you’ll find yourself buried amongst the drama until the very end!
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Chicklit/Mystery/Drama
Release date: October 20th, 2015
Released by: Lake Union Publishing
Length: 351 pages
Blurb: From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.
After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.
For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.
As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.
REVIEW ***** (5*)
Smoke follows two women, Elizabeth and Mindy, who, although once friends, are almost the opposite of each other in terms of personality/character. Elizabeth on the one hand is career-driven to a large degree, and it was only due to wanting a quiet, family life with her husband that encouraged her to leave the job she loved and move to the quiet town of Nelson. Whereas Mindy, having already had two children of her own, is a very devoted housewife who dotes on her children to the point that she has little time for herself. Her every worry and stress concerns her kids and her husband.
The story is told from Elizabeth’s point of view, and begins with Elizabeth waking up and smelling the smoke from ‘a fast-spreading ground fire’. Due to the threat of some homes on the edge of the town, there is an advisory from the emergency services for some homes to be evacuated – Elizabeth’s being one of them. With Elizabeth and her husband, Ben, only having decided to divorce that evening, things become a little awkward when the only real place they have to move to is Ben’s parents, who are unaware of their marital problems.
When Elizabeth arrives on the scene to investigate the fire and give a helping hand where she can, she finds that she misses the drama, the danger and excitement of working on the ground, amid all the chaos. Meeting with colleagues and firefighters at the scene places her among the action and it is an aspect of her life that she simply gets pulled into and thrives in. This is perhaps something that Ben doesn’t quite fully understand.
Investigating the fire leads to her finding out that it began behind a local neighbour’s house, and when looked into a little further it leads to us discovering that the neighbour had been bothered on a regular basis by local kids. Is it possible the kids started the fire, be it an accident or intentional? Did arson have a part to play? To make matters worse, one of the kids implicated is possibly Mindy’s son, Angus, which, over the course of the story, sends Mindy going frantic, blaming herself for not noticing his recent, distant behaviour, and feeling like the world’s worst mum! Will this possible accusation widen the rift between Elizabeth and Mindy even further?
Catherine McKenzie has written scenes that are very true to real life, and Smoke does make you think about your priorities: family, children, work, and relationships with friends and partners. How much should we consider those around us before we make work choices, different friends, etc? And, how selfish should we be?
With its well written style and in-depth characters – many of which go on an emotional/reflecting journey – Smoke is a fantastically well-developed and thought out story. For analytic readers, you will grasp the power that the fire has on this town’s regular, daily routine, and how each of the character’s private lives is pulled apart in the process. However, even the more laidback reader will benefit as the story itself poses many questions alone. Plus, there is an absolutely brilliant reading guide at the end of the book which will provide even more questions and encourage the reader to think even deeper about the meaning of the fire, and how it impacts the main characters. It breaks down the story and you will see some areas in a different light! In this manner, the story will stay with you much longer than after the initial read!
A copy of Smoke was provided for the purpose of a fair and honest review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker