Author: Jo A. Hiestand
Narrator: Steve Hart
Length: 8 hours 32 minutes
Series: The McLaren Mysteries, Book 3
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Released: Nov. 30, 2019
Janet Ennis tragically died five years ago in what the police labeled an accidental fire. But Janet’s mother, Nora, believes it to be murder and arson. And she’s hoping ex-cop Michael McLaren can prove it quickly, for she’s losing her memory to dementia.
As McLaren pokes through the case details, he becomes emotionally involved with the dead woman. Yet, Janet isn’t the only person who threatens his mental well-being. A series of arsons on his own property hint that he’s upset someone connected with this case.
Motives for Janet’s murder rise like the smoky tendrils of a fire. And motive aside, the murder scene seems a bit too pat: a drought-stricken landscape eager to lap up flames and a conveniently locked door barring Janet’s escape.
Will McLaren solve the case while Nora can still comprehend the resolution, or will Harvester’s plans see McLaren’s career go up in smoke?
Jo A. Hiestand can usually be found at her computer, which is good, since she writes three mystery series. It seems a natural progression from her job as a graphic artist – crafting word images on a sheet of paper instead of creating graphics on the computer screen. Between the two computer stints, she lived in Britain for her semi-pro folk singing career and became friends with several English police detectives. The latter relationship was not a consequence of the former calling, however, but all these UK aspects find their way into her books. When not tapping on the keyboard, Jo enjoys reading, baking, and photography. She lives in the St Louis area with her cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.
After a number of years with commercial radio covering two continents, Steve Hart moved toward narration after being asked to perform his first novel in 2005. As it turned out, his story telling ability became stronger as each book and year passed. Steve considers narration an on-going study that even requires constant focus and the mindset of ‘always be willing to learn and grow.’
“Many people have an opinion on ‘how to read’ a book, but I believe there is only one way—you have to be in it! Immersed in the story and being the character(s) as they move through it. Projecting the emotion and bringing the whole story to life, while making it easy to consume for the listener.”
Unable to accept her daughter’s death was accidental five years ago, a grieving mother pleads with former cop, Michael McLaren, to investigate the circumstances around the fire that took Janet Ennis’ life.
McLaren is wary for several reasons, like he isn’t a licensed private investigator, but he’s touched by the mother’s desperation and the fact she’s sinking into dementia and wants answers while she can still remember her daughter.
Mike finds red flags from the beginning of his investigation, and his former cop status hinders as much as helps him. His best friend is still on the force, a great sounding board, and able to help Mike find some answers. But the closed Ennis investigation belongs to the very man connected to Mike’s reason for resigning.
Retracing the steps of the first investigation, Michael McLaren finds himself surrounded by suspects, and with a growing obsession for the dead woman.
As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Mike struggles to stay focused as someone keeps setting fires at his home and is tracking his every move. He also isn’t aware an old nemesis is plotting revenge.
It’s easy to see McLaren was a good cop because he is a good investigator. He’s also befuddled by his infatuation with Janet Ennis, even though it does nothing to lessen the love he has for girlfriend, Dena.
Well-written, Shadow in the Smoke kept me guessing until the reveal, which was nicely done.
I stumbled early in the story with the narration. The narrator did a great job, in my opinion, with all the characters except Michael McLaren. It took me a few chapters to accept Mike’s “voice,” but the character’s laid-back, but driven personality helped.
I volunteered to review this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jo A. Hiestand. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Prize: $30 Amazon Gift Card
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