Book Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

unnamedAfter a decadelong 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.

What I Thought:
Given that I read a lot of crime novels and historical novels, it was nice to visit a contemporary setting in Catherine McKenzie’s Smoke. Essentially, although the blurb specifically mentions Elizabeth and Mindy as the two main characters, as you read you come to see the wildfire that is threatening the town as another, separate character. It is described almost as a living, breathing thing, which adds a great level of tension to the plot, particularly between Elizabeth and her husband, Ben as they are almost living in a ‘love triangle’, as Elizabeth can’t leave her old life of fighting fires behind.

A particularly liked the use of emails and web briefings to let us know about the path of the fire – it’s factual, we know what’s going on, but there is no need for characters to be talking about the dynamics of the fire itself – it is just lurking there in the background all the time.

The way the plot spins out, revealing at a good pace what has happened in Elizabeth and Mindy’s past, is easy to read and there’s an interesting look at how small towns work, the tensions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. Altogether an excellent read.

eCopy received from Netgalley.

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