top of page
Top of Blog
Exotic refreshing cocktails next to book and straw hat by the pool on vacation._edited.jpg
  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins


ISBN: 9781503947214

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 10/20/2015

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars

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 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.

My Review

A special thank you to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Catherine McKenzie returns following Hidden with SMOKE — a town in the Rockies, raged by fire and destruction; and the burning secrets and lies, of its characters’ personal lives igniting; losing control at the same time. A fast-spreading ground fire has ignited at the edge of the Cooper Basin in Nelson County. Housing structures and lives are threatened. Temporary shelters, school suspensions, warnings, and evacuations. No stranger to fires, Elizabeth Martin (Beth), has worked with wild land fires for ten years, since she was twenty-six years old. She worked her way up to arson investigator for the regional fire district. She had to go where she was needed. As her husband, Ben would say, “anywhere, but here, with him”. She had trained, studied and gotten strong, and was ready to go where the fires were. She had spent a great deal of time away from Ben. After ten years, she felt as if she had spent most of her life waiting. Waiting to get back to him. Waiting to start a family they had always wanted. A job she loved and a marriage. Her life was about waiting for something. Just as waiting for a fire to spark. From the first bolt of lightning or careless cigarette to set off a telltale white plume above the horizon. She traded it, for a quieter life with her husband Ben, and now they were getting a divorce- after ten years of marriage and six years of dating. What did they have left? She has to go back to Nelson where she has a feeling things will get worse before they get better. She has to help, since she cannot seem to control her own personal life. There is Mindy, another family. The two women met years ago in a Welcome to the Nelson Group, at 26 and 32. However, both different personalities-- Mindy was afraid of her own shadow; whereas Beth got a thrill from running into deadly situations. They were both new, yet felt like outsiders in the town. Their husbands fit perfectly into the town as a pair of comfortable slippers. Whereas the two of them, had trouble making new friends. They had something to learn from one another at the time, and despite their differences, they had gotten pretty close. However life moved on and Mindy had her family to care for, and her desperate attempts at having a family. She had loved Ben, wanted to be a mom, but loved what she did. When Beth could not seem to get pregnant, but having her best friend around with the perfect family, was torture. Ugly things were said and disagreements--they went their separate ways. Beth feels her old life has followed her. 44 yr. old Mindy is married to Peter with, two children; 16-yr old son, Angus, and 14 yr. old daughter, Carrie. Busy with things of life and kids, and not a lot of time for herself. She puts her efforts into trying help out in the community with the devastation. Attempting to be the perfect wife on the exterior. She had never thought of herself as one of those stay at home moms. After layouts and budget cuts, she found herself helicoptering over her kids, as if her constant attention could keep them safe. As the fires rage out of control, there is suspicion as to arson. Fingers are pointed. Accidents. Juvenile Offenders. Coverups. Secrets. Lies. Consequences. Reactions. Simmering. Who is the source? Then comes more secrets. Pictures. Blackmail. A Girlfriend, and a parent’s worst nightmare, suspicions, guilt or innocence? Everything has consequences. While people are losing their homes and lives, their personal lives are like a raging fire destroying relationships, families, friendships, and marriages. Over the course of six days, Elizabeth is there to help protect the town, while helping with the investigation. Plus attempting to re-kindle her relationship with her husband. and her former best friend. There are many suspects, from John Phillips, a widow who has lost his foreclosed home to the blaze, Tucker a high school student, Angus, Mindy’s teenage son, and Tucker’s classmate, and a girlfriend. Catherine delivers a creative, yet complex suspenseful tale of relationships and friendships filled with stunning metaphors, with both positive and negative connotations. From the "burning" strong desire for motherhood, careers, and family; as well as the "ignited" enthusiasm for a successful marriage. On the other hand; there is the destruction and devastation. The igniting of fire to destroy, the entrapment, and the spark which combust, left smoldering ---ruining lives, homes, and communities. Will this town and the lives find hope after the devastation? SMOKE explores tragedy and conflict, extreme situations, with strong emotional dynamics, trust, and bonds which tie…. With smoldering tension, and rising temperatures—suspense from the first page to the last, with characters you will come to care for—her best book, yet!

Review Links: Goodreads



Advance Praise

"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. SMOKE will have readers turning the pages with haste, consumed with burning questions as to how this page-turner ends. " --Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby

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

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

"A raging fire in a small town in the northern Rockies deeply affects the lives of two old friends who are no longer speaking: Elizabeth, an arson investigator, and Mindy, whose son is suspected of setting the fire. 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

"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

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 a sizzling page-turner with wonderfully flawed and human characters and a riveting plot portraying both the terror and 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

About the Author

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 and FORGOTTEN, are all international bestsellers. Her fourth novel, HIDDEN, will be released in June, 2013 in Canada and in Spring 2014 in the US. Her novels have been translated into French, German, Czech, Slovak and Polish.

And if you want to know how she has time to do all that, the answer is: robots.

Now available in Paperback

April 7, 2015

When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered — his wife and his mistress — and past secrets, desires, and regrets are brought to light. Read More






bottom of page