Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie (audio)

Title: Smoke
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Narrator: Amy McFadden, Cassandra Campbell, & Danny Campbell
Published: October 2015, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 9 hours 51 minutes / ARC e-copy 370 pages
Source: Publisher / Netgalley

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 decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in for a quieter life 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 when a fire started 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 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 thoughts: This is my first book by Catherine McKenzie and I really enjoyed it! Listening to it kept me completely engaged in the story and I found myself hooked right from the beginning. It's an intense story that sucks you in and doesn't let up. 

I love the way this story was told, alternating between Elizabeth and Mindy's point of views, but also including news updates of the fire. Was the fire intentionally set or was it an accident? While this is what drives part of the story, it does end up playing a secondary role. We also delve into the lives of Elizabeth and Mindy, both who are dealing with personal struggles of their own. These two used be good friends, but something has happened to estrange them and now they don't talk at all. 

The story is told in the present with flashbacks interspersed to fill in gaps. And it is through these flashbacks that details are slowly revealed about the drama that is going on between Elizabeth and her husband, Mindy and her family, and even the history between Elizabeth and Mindy.  The fire is more the backdrop to these other stories and ends up the catalyst to change - change in their own lives and in their relationships. 

Usually when there are two main characters, I tend to find myself drawn to one more than the other, but in this case, I was drawn to both - I felt both were equally compelling and I wanted more of each. Even the secondary characters get under you skin and you want more of them, but not as much as I wanted of Elizabeth and Mindy. They were just so vividly drawn and not that they were perfect characters, but just that I was desperate to know everything about them - what motivated them and what made them vulnerable. They were each so different and yet I was equally drawn to each. I don't think I've read a book where this has happened in a while.

This book will grab you from the start and have you flipping through the pages or glued to your earphones, desperate to know how it is all going to play out. I even think it might be the type of book that is worthy of a reread or relisten and luckily I have both copies available to me for that very reason! I am glad I gave this book a try and will definitely be looking into Catherine McKenzie's other books.

Audio thoughts: This was a great audio book production. I don't listen to too many books with multiple narrators, but this one was well-done. I think Danny Campbell is the only one that was new to me, and he was great with the news updates about the fire. Amy McFadden and Cassandra Campbell both are great narrators and I enjoy listening to them. 


  1. This was my first book by CM too, but sounds like the audio was really good so its one I can keep in mind for a gift for my sister. I have only listened to One Plus One with multiple narrators and loved that.

  2. I enjoyed reading this one too. Did not listen to it, but I'll keep that in mind for the future. I've not read other books by this author, but she's definitely on my list now. I liked the setting and the fire storyline.

  3. This sounds good. I put it on my audible wish list.


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