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Up in Smoke by Charlene Weir
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Up in Smoke (2003)

by Charlene Weir

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As usual I really liked this book, the characters are growing and changing, the depiction of small town Kansas rings very true to what I know of small town mid-west and the mystery was pretty good (although I caught the big clue and so actually guessed right, for once!)

So, why did it take me several days to read this one? Well, the subject matter revolves around the Governor's run for President, and the plot line about the backstabbing and infighting involved in the campaign just really bothered me, mostly because I'm so sick of politicians and the way they distort things to fit their agenda rather than doing anything for the people they supposedly represent.

So, I love the mystery, I love the regular characters and I had some serious problems with the actual characters involved in the murders.

I'll keep reading the series because of the regular characters and hope that from now on she avoid politics. ( )
  bookswoman | Mar 31, 2013 |
A woman is kidnapped; another contemplates suicide; a third plans revenge. All three have ties to Hampstead, Kansas, where Susan Wren is police chief. Converging on Hampstead are presidential candidate Jack Garrett and his entourage. When Garrett's long-time friend Wakely Fromm winds up dead in what looks like a faked suicide, then another homicide victim with a link to the candidate is found, it's Chief Wren’s job to sort it all out. Could Garrett be involved? When the business card of Susan's cousin Sean Donovan, a member of the press corps following the Garrett campaign, turns up at one of the homicide scenes, things get even more complicated.

Although I would categorize Up in Smoke as a police procedural, the story is only partly that. Much of the story follows two women, Cassie Storm and Mary Shoals, and a young girl who wants to be called "Moonbeam." Cassie's constant companion is the "black dog" of depression following a tragic loss. She and Garrett were an item decades earlier and he is trying to get her on his campaign team -- although his wife isn't so sure that's a good idea. Cassie's not so sure she wants to continue living. Mary Shoals is on an unknown mission that becomes increasingly clear as the story proceeds. Moonbeam is no stranger to tragic loss and in her naiveté she doesn't realize she's in danger because of what a murderer believes she knows.

When it becomes obvious that several murders have their roots in a long-ago, deadly wildfire that Jack Garrett and Wakely Fromm survived, but other firefighters did not, the race is on to figure out who had a motive to kill to keep secret what really happened.

Up in Smoke is a real page-turner. The story builds to an exciting conclusion, and each plot thread is resolved in dramatic fashion. I thought the character development was top-notch, although I was a bit disappointed that Susan ~ Wren, ostensibly the main character, appeared so little in the story. One caveat: those who have a hard time reading about crimes against children may find parts of the story difficult to get through.

By Diana. First published in Mystery News, February/March 2004 edition.

Review based on publisher- or author-provided review copy.
  NewsieQ | Jan 22, 2011 |
This was full of sad stories & while reading I hoped that some would turn out happier. I don't understand the ending. Nobody should read my comments if they are trying to avoid spoilers. Anyway, 3 people are murdered to cover up that this guy was a coward in his youth; and 1 woman wounds him & kills herself because he was a criminal lawyer who got a guy acquitted who then went off & killed her daughter. And then he continues his campaign? Wouldn't that pretty much ruin a campaign?
  franoscar | Feb 18, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031231020X, Hardcover)

On the heels of a severe thunderstorm, Governor Jack Garrett comes to Hampstead with his friend and constant companion Wakely Fromm. Twenty years ago they battled a forest fire that left Wakely confined to a wheelchair and made Jack a hero. Now Jack is battling for his party's nomination as presidential candidate.

Trouble brews for the campaign, however, when the business card of Sean Donovan, one of the campaign workers, and Susan's cousin, turns up at a homicide scene. Police Chief Susan Wren's investigation reveals evidence that points straight to Jack Garrett. Should Susan arrest a sitting governor or Sean Donovan?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:52 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Reunions: something to look forward to, something to be afraid of. Police Chief Susan Wren was a relative newcomer to Hampstead, Kansas; fate had led her from her native San Francisco and put her down in this prairie town. When the news came that the governor would kick off his campaign for the presidential nomination with a homecoming rally in Hampstead, Susan was not surprised that it brought together not only old friends, but also old enemies. They had all known one another back when the world was a challenge; now the only one who still had stars in his eyes was the governor. One woman arrives intending to murder the governor; she blames him for a tragedy many years before. Another woman returns to town playing, not for the first time, with the idea of suicide.When a Hampstead woman is kidnapped, thrust into the trunk of a car and spirited away, Susan doesn't know whether the kidnapping is related to the governor, but she does know that it's the most urgent, at least at the moment, of her many concerns." "The governor's homecoming party is filled with anger, jealousy, and long-nursed animosities. In the cold, stormy days that follow, Susan encounters tougher challenges than ever before as the emotions build to a firestorm. Danger rises on every side, and in the center is Police Chief Susan Wren, desperately trying to tamp down the flames and hoping that no bodies will be discovered when the smoke finally drifts away."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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