Shadow in the Smoke by Jo Hiestand


Shadow in the Smoke by Jo Hiestand
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary
Length: Full (344 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

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?

Shadow in the Smoke presents main character Michael McLaren; a quiet, intelligent but reflective soul, who’s personality could be straight out of any 20th century British detective story.

He insists he’s not a private detective–not a licensed one, anyway. However, he’ll admit the odd case has “fallen into his lap.” He’s not the positive, arrogant solver of crime many of his ilk are. He’s not a genius, nor especially tough…’no Philip Marlowe,’ to be sure.

But he’s persistent. He’s sympathetic. And more importantly, he’s thoughtful. As he begins to pursue clues, we too see them and come to understand the import of each.

The challenge is obvious at once; unexplained death. Hiestand presents the victim’s mother sympathetically; she may or may not have a point, but her feelings are real. Readers find themselves touched as much as intrigued. McLarren is touched as well, and spurred on by a lovely, velvety voice from the past.  He’s also deterred by his own past, like his old boss, the detective-Inspector.

A lot happens around the fittingly rainy Village of Darleycote; and there are occasional moments of suspense, but mostly, readers will find themselves puzzling out the mystery and enjoying the characters.

Shadow in the Smoke presents a truly original investigative main character, a wonderful study of human emotion and motivation, and a perfectly satisfying mystery. This reader is excited to find a wonderful addition to the classic British mystery! Five stars and an absolute must read for fans of Agatha Christie, Naio Marsh and the like.


  1. Thank you for hosting

  2. What are three albums (soundtracks or compilations don’t count) that really define you or have shaped you as a person?

    • Hi, Mai! What a great question! This one really makes me think (yikes!) 😉 Well, first off I’d say Handel’s “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day”. Of the twelve movements, there’s not one that doesn’t speak to me. Handel’s put into music my emotions when I listen to music. Second would be the Scottish folk group The McCalmans with their album “Smuggler.” Incredible contemporary renditions of traditional folk and some original songs. My favorite song of theirs, “The Flowers of the Forest,” is on there — best version of that trad song I’ve ever heard. Third choice is “Branwen,” by Tudor Morgan. This is an album of songs created from traditional Welsh stories about the mythical woman Branwen, as well as folk songs such as lullabies and laments.. The songs are given a contemporary flavor by guitars, saxophone, keyboard, and recording mix that borders on the mystical. There are other albums that I could’ve included, but right now, at least, these are the three that touch me the most. Thanks for the question, Mai.

  3. Now that I’ve recovered from thinking about Mai’s question… 😉 Good morning, everyone! I hope you enter the raffle for the giveaway. And thanks to my hostess for today’s review.

  4. Wow! This book sounds great-love mysteries! Thank you for a terrific post!

    • Hi, Beth. I agree about the post — Snapdragon bowled me over with her 5-star review. I hope if you get the book you like it! Thanks for commenting — and I hope you enter the raffle giveaway.

  5. Does anyone else have music that means something particular to them, as Mai asked me this morning? Just got to wondering what calls to you.

  6. I’ll say good night, now. Thanks again to Long and Short Reviews for hosting me, to Snapdragon for the terrific book review, and to everyone who logged on today and who left reviews. Remember to enter the drawing for the prize!

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