Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

by Catherine McKenzie

ISBN-13: 9781503945654

Smoke is an engaging and readable novel for those who enjoy suspenseful women’s fiction filled with familiar tensions.

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“. . .not your typical mystery . . .”

Two women share a disconnection with the life they lead for different motives.  This novel is a “no fault”, intimate soul-searching revelation of their messy lives. 

Torn between desires and obligations, Mindy Mitchell and Elizabeth Martin must decide what they will try to save and what they will be willing to lose from a metaphoric as well as a real wildfire.  Mindy, involved with the community and social obligations, begins to question her assumptions and decisions made during the tedium of daily life.  Elizabeth, a former forest-fire investigator now working as an investigator for the town prosecutor, experiences an inner isolation fostered by a failing marriage and a failed friendship with Mindy. 

While in this state of doubt, both women become sympathetic toward the same man, John Phillips, who, having lost his wife two years earlier, has now lost all that he owns in the woodland fire that threatens to reduce their town of Nelson to the same ashy residue.  Mindy’s sympathy reflects the communal and societal view of loss until her son Angus’ secret endangers all that is important to her.  Elizabeth’s sympathy stems from a comparison between his losses to her own losses, past and pending. 

Within the backdrop of a raging wildfire of mysterious origins, a combination of in-depth observation of one’s self as well as a harsh look at the appearances and realities of relationships, not your typical mystery, but a mystery of understanding yourself.  As the women examine their lives, and the town’s people battle the fire, uncertainty spreads and distorts Elizabeth and Mindy’s future, much like the smoke from a forest-fire filters through and obscures what is still whole and alive.  Destruction or survival is unclear.

Reviewer: C. L. Collins