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?
No one can know what it’s like to lose a child unless they’ve experienced it. Is it better to lose your memory and have such pain fade away? Mrs. Ennis doesn’t think so. She wants to know the truth about her daughter, and she wants someone to listen. When the police don’t seem to, she calls on Michael McLaren to help her.
Michael McLaren is an ex-cop having left the force from more than a disagreement with a colleague. I sound like I am siding with McLaren and I most certainly am. This is a good man; a man who wants to help others; a man with good friends and while he’s a little moody, I’ve loved him from Book 1. Sound a little wrapped up in Jo Hiestand’ s main character, don’t I? I love good characters. This one and all of the other real players in this book have been crafted to have his or her own unique personality. When you have a twisting and turning plot, having your characters this clear makes it much easier to follow the story.
Having such a good narrator makes it even easier and more enjoyable. Before I forget I want to say that even though this is a British mystery and this is a great narrator, never does he make any accent so thick that it is difficult to understand. He and the plot of the story will keep you tied to your earphones or whatever you choose to use.
This book is listed as a British Mystery. While there are some settings and a few word forms that might give that impression, I think this is a mystery that would appeal to all. It has hints, puzzles, twists and turns, a dead body, and lots of personality. I’m not sure what more you could ask.
You can tell from this review that I have read and listened to many more books in this series. I’ve loved every one of them. Each can stand alone but...don’t miss out, read them all.
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.”
Tunes Selected by Jo A. Hiestand
- Never Leave My Side” -- it’s an original song. I wrote the lyrics and Lola Hennicke wrote the music. It’s out on a single-song CD with her as vocalist and pianist. Also have a drummer and bassist on the song. The song is a sort of 1940s torch song about unrequited love, which fits the story because the murder victim was an up-and-coming torch song/blues singer. I needed an original song to go with the book, and this is the product.
- Chopin Nocturnes
- “The Very Thought of You” - I love this song. It seemed particularly appropriate for “Shadow in the Smoke” because McLaren is beginning to become enamored of the murder victim, Janet Ennis.
- “Nut Brown Maid” - a British folksong that again links McLaren to Janet.
- Any of Eddy Duchin’s slower songs, like ‘Lights Out’ or ‘When a Woman Loves a Man’ or ‘As Time Goes By.’ That style fits perfectly with the story.
- “Short Grass” by the great Canadian folksingers Ian & Sylvia. McLaren’s thinking about his own folkgroup, wondering why Sylvia didn’t play autoharp on the song. I added that because in my own group in the 1970s I played autoharp on the song and I thought it went very well. I added that reference as a sort of ‘in’ joke to the story.
- “Time Is Winding Up” by Ginny Hawker and Carol Elizabeth Jones -- the sentiment portrayed what was going in the story at that point. McLare’s getting closer to discovering the killer’s identity.
- “Green Fields” by the 1960s folkgroup The Brothers Four. It’s a slower paced song and laments that the woman the singer loves is gone. It mirrors McLaren’s growing feelings for Janet, his lament that she’s gone. The song, though, talks about the woman returning to the singer; McLaren might realize Janet can’t return, but the sentiments are the same for him.
Jo A. Hiestand's Casting PicksSince McLaren as well as the series is British, I’ll go with British actors. I’d cast Matt Ryan or Ben Mansfield as Michael McLaren. McLaren’s friend and sidekick Jamie Kydd would be Oliver Coleman. Although, when I began the series some time ago, I imagined Douglas Henshall as Jamie. But time’s marched on and Douglas Henshall—as well as all of us—has aged a bit, leaving my book-bound Jamie at Oliver Coleman’s age. Jamie’s in the other books, so Mr. Coleman could be in the series, if it came to that! McLaren’s girlfriend Dena could be played by Lena Headey. Charlie Harvester, who is McLaren’s nemesis, could be played by Patrick Malahide.
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