WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, BY CATHY COLE
PUBLICATION: FIREBORN PUBLISHING; MARCH 8, 2017
About the book:
Firefighter Jo Woods is struggling to hold onto her job and her sanity. Banished to the backwater town of Mourne Lough, she vows to stop making waves, admit her family’s death was an accident, and that the guilt she feels is plain old survivor guilt.
Then she finds the roses and everything changes.
The killer hasn’t stopped. He’s here. In the same town. Stalking her. And once again, no one believes her.
After seven years of avoiding family and friends, Jo is alone and friendless in a strange town. In order to survive and, more importantly, bring the killer to justice, she must overcome her fears and embrace her new life. And she must do it quickly because the killer has his sights set on her and he’s willing to kill anyone who gets in his way.
Enter Ian “Coop” Cooper, who sets Jo’s pulse fluttering and her antenna into overdrive. Does she dare trust him?
One thing Jo is clear about: this killer destroyed her life once before. No way is she going to let him do it again–no matter what it takes.
I am completely speechless after reading Where There’s Smoke! This was such an outstanding, whirlwind of a thriller and it wasn’t until I had finished that I realized that this is author Cathy Cole’s debut novel. So I will begin by saying, this is an author to watch because if this is her debut, I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Anyhow, to the review part… The main character of this novel is Jo Woods, a firefighter that has recently transferred to the small town of Mourne Lough. She has a chance to start fresh but is also running from almost losing her job due to her theories about a possible murderer/arsonist. Jo has some horrible ghosts pertaining to losses involving fires, and when she comes across a house fire where she sees the roses, she knows that she’s been right all along and that he’s back. The problem is, no one believes her.
Jo immediately appears very professional and dedicated to her work, but it’s also apparent that she has suffered tremendous loss, as well as, a lot of gossip and whispering behind her back regarding her theories of a string of “accidental house fires” actually being murder. After beginning at her new station, she easily befriends Dave but struggles to relate to the others in her unit, as well as, her superior. In the meantime, she befriends a neighbor Mary that is struggling as a single mother, as well as, the attractive but mysterious man across the hall, Coop. She has one person she can trust back from where she came from, Mavis, who is helping Jo compile profiles and information regarding the deaths of children in house fires over the years, but otherwise, everyone else thinks she’s crazy.
Jo faces several battles in this novel. First is her own loss related to a fire – which I don’t want to spoil/reveal. Second is her being the only female in the small fire station in Mourne Lough with some sexist men as partners. The third is her frustrations over truly feeling these fires and deaths were intentional, but unable to produce any solid proof. Despite her past and present struggles, Jo is a strong and assertive main character presented in a realistic but positive light. I immediately felt connected to Jo and felt for her when every possible door on solving these fires kept shutting in her face.
Beyond Jo, I can literally say that I felt suspicious of almost every character. Maybe not Dave or the older woman in Jo’s building, but literally every other character seemed to raise at least one red flag with me. Thus, this was an amazing suspense novel because I was floored as the truth slowly unraveled. Cathy Cole’s writing and plot development left me closely watching every move that every character made, as I struggled to figure out who was committing these fires and murders – if anyone was at all. I can attest that I did not figure everything out until maybe a few paragraphs before it was made clear and I was shocked.
Where There’s Smoke was a fantastic surprise of suspense, mystery, crime, and maybe a tiny speckle of romance. You will not be able to put this one down once you start reading, so save this one when you have no other pressing matters that day. Prepare yourself for keeping a running tally in your head of who has said something or done something odd as you read because you will be busy trying to figure this one out!
*Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!