Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Shadow in the Smoke by Jo A. Hiestand

Audiobook Blog Tour: Shadow in the Smoke by Jo A. Hiestand

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

Genre: Mystery

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?

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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.
Narrator Bio

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.”

Music Playlist
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.
Dream Cast
Jo A. Hiestand's Casting Picks
Since 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.

I am rating this book at 3 1/2 to 4 stars. I think this Audiobook would of been better with a different narrator. Not that Steve Hart  was bad, for me at times he was a bit hard to understand though. The story was kind of slow getting started and at times kind of stalled but when it was moving along it was a good story. It is definitely a who done it mystery. It sounds like a cut and dry case of accidental death and even the Police ruled it as such,  but the more Michael McLaren looks into the case the more it looks like murder, and wow at the number of suspects he finds.

The book starts out with Michael McLaren reluctantly meeting with Mrs. Ennis. She is positive her Daughter Janet was murdered 5 years. The police have ruled her death as accidental and refuse to reopen the case. Mrs. Ennis has dementia and wants nothing more than to prove her daughter's death was not accidental before her memory is gone. McLaren is her last resort.

McLaren is an Ex-Cop and who is not a licensed private but detective. Along with his friend Jamie they start looking into the case. It does seem like everyone and their brother, even Mrs. Ennis become suspects at some point. The book left me guessing all the way to the end, at times the amount of suspects was a bit over whelming even trying to keep all the information straight. I did back tracks  few times. This is also one of those books for me I had to just set with and pay full attention too, if other things were going on around me I would get a little lost. 

I received 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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  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book

  2. Thank you for sharing this book, it sounds great and I'm glad I got to hear about it.

  3. How does her losing her memory to dementia work in the story?

  4. I want to know why Nora believed it is murder and arson.

  5. I want to know about the motives for Janet’s murder