Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Straight Reading from the Library: Shadow in the Smoke by Jo Hiestand

This review is done in conjunction with a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jo A. Hiestand will award a McLaren-design tote bag AND a choice of a water bottle (McLaren designed) or a ceramic McLaren coaster tile (International giveaway to a randomly chosen commenter via Rafflecopter. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


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 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?


This mystery is the third book in the McLaren mystery series by Jo Hiestand and, while the immediate mystery is complete in this book, there is an ongoing story that the reader would get more out of if the books are read in order. I was able to follow the story fine, so it can be read as a standalone, but I think I would have understood some of the nuances and undercurrents if I'd read the first two books--which I have already ordered!

The author does a wonderful job at making you care about the victim, who is only seen through the eyes of those around her and through her music.

There are enough suspects and motives to keep the solution to the mystery hidden until late in the book-- good job on that, Ms. Hiestand. All to often, I can figure out who the murderer is early on so it was a nice change.

This is definitely a series I'll be following!

4 stars.

“So now you can pat yourself on the back, pleased that you rescued a little tearaway from a life of crime.”

“Oh, darling, it wasn’t that bad. You just took a wrong turn.”

“And you were there to keep me on the tarmac. Very obliging.”

“It wasn’t so hard. You always had the talent.” She took a sip of wine, watching Sean from over the rim of her glass.

It was hard to judge what was coming. It had been a risk, agreeing to talk to her in a public place, but the risk seemed less than meeting in a less frequented spot where they might be seen and remembered. And he didn’t want to go to her house or, worse yet, have her come to his. He eyed her, steeling himself, for even though he already felt manipulated, he had a suspicion she was about to drop a bomb.

Putting the glass down on the mat, she said, “All right. You want to know what this is all about. It’s simple enough. I’d like to know why you torched Janet’s artist studio right after you killed her.”


Jo A. Hiestand knew in grade school that she wanted to be a mystery writer. But life got in the way: singing in a semi-pro folk group, traveling to New Zealand, working as a camp counselor, co-inventing P.I.R.A.T.E.S. (a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game), becoming a tour agent for a Scottish folk singing group, attending a citizen police academy and riding along with police officers… But she needed to immerse herself in All Things British for her books. England beckoned and she responded.

She bee-lined to Derbyshire, feeling it was the ‘home’ of her books. Derbyshire also bestowed the essential English police contacts and transformed the St. Louisan into an Anglophile.

She’s returned nearly a dozen times to Derbyshire, researching and photographing for her McLaren cold case detective novels.

In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.

Her cat, Tennyson, shares her St. Louis home.

Follow Jo and McLaren on these websites:
www.Mclaren-mysteries.com and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jo-Hiestand-Mystery-Author/203133803128

Buy the book at Amazon.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. What kind of phone was your first cell phone?

  2. Good morning! Thank you so much for hosting my book today.

  3. McLaren, my protagonist, is overcome by Janet Ennis' voice and by the song she sings. Has a song or a singer ever captivated you like that? I could list a few, but the two that immediately come to my mind are "As from the pow'r of sacred lays" by Handel (from "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day") and the Franz Liszt etude "Un sospiro." Incredible, IMHO.

  4. Thanks for the blogspot today. I enjoyed my time here.

  5. Enjoyed the excerpt, sounds really good. Entering under the name of Virginia