SMOKE by Catherine McKenzie


Email this review


As a wildfire threatens a Colorado town, two old friends confront their own dangerous home fires—one is on the brink of divorce, the other suspects her teenage son of arson.

The novel opens with a domestic bombshell when Elizabeth asks Ben for a divorce. Years of happiness have been followed by failed attempts at having a child and now endless bickering. The urgency of their crumbling marriage is momentarily forgotten when a wildfire begins to encroach on their upscale Rocky Mountain town. Though she now handles investigations for the town's prosecuting attorney, Elizabeth used to suit up and battle wildfires; with her expertise, she's become involved with the investigation. She begins by interviewing John Phillips, whose house, the believed locus of the fire, has burned down. He tells her about a group of teenagers who have been harassing him for months; it's mostly taken the form of harmless pranks, but they have been making a habit of drinking beer around his fire pit. One of the boys may be Mindy's son, Angus. Though once best friends, Elizabeth and Mindy haven't spoken since a hurtful argument broke their friendship. Now it feels to Mindy that only Elizabeth can save her son. As Elizabeth gets closer to the truth about the fire, down-to-earth Mindy and her pretentious friends, bitingly depicted, arrange for the annual Fall Fling fundraiser to benefit John Phillips—that is, if he really is a victim. Although McKenzie crafts a well-paced story (and a mystery as to who started the fire), Elizabeth's failing marriage, the emotional heart of the novel, feels underdeveloped, especially so when a surprise brings husband and wife together.

A solid if uninspired drama with a bit of criminal intrigue thrown in.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5039-4721-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015


FictionHIDDEN by Catherine McKenzie
by Catherine McKenzie
FictionSPIN by Catherine McKenzie
by Catherine McKenzie


FictionTHE ANATOMY OF DREAMS by Chloe Benjamin
by Chloe Benjamin
FictionTHINGS YOU WON'T SAY by Sarah Pekkanen
by Sarah Pekkanen
FictionNIGHT BLINDNESS by Susan Strecker
by Susan Strecker