Review

Smoke Screen

by Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown has composed an enviable body of work over the
course of two decades while grabbing the well-deserved double ring
of commercial and critical success. It is hard to believe that,
since 1981, she has written over 50 New York Times
bestsellers. Brown, through a number of elements --- a shift in
location, fresh characters, ever-changing plot twists and good
old-fashioned hard work --- continues to reinvent herself, with
subtlety, from novel to novel, maintaining a quality level that is
rarely matched and never surpassed.

Her latest, SMOKE SCREEN, is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and
she gets the tone and mood of the city pitch perfect, the result of
spending a number of months there as part of the preparation for
writing the book. The story begins with Britt Shelley, a local
television news personality, waking up in bed with a corpse. The
recently departed is Jay Burgess, a Charleston police detective who
acquired hero status some five years previously due to his actions
with three other individuals in rescuing people from a fire at the
main Police Department building. Burgess has parlayed his fame into
an enviable career trajectory that has just come to an abrupt end.
Shelley, however, has no memory of climbing into bed with Burgess
and little memory of meeting him for drinks beforehand. When it
develops that Burgess died as the result of asphyxiation,
apparently due to being smothered by a pillow, suspicion is
immediately cast upon Shelley, who is nowhere to be found.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Shelley was kidnapped by Raley Gannon, a
man whose life has been adversely impacted by both Shelley and
Burgess. Gannon, who had been a fireman at the time of the
Department fire, was placed in charge of the investigation. His
efforts to determine the cause of the fire, and at least one
suspicious death, had been cut short when he attended a party
hosted by Burgess and subsequently awoke with a notorious party
girl lying dead next to him. Shelley, who had just started her
career in Charleston at the time, began an investigation into the
woman’s death, one that cast suspicion on Gannon and
ultimately ruined his life and career, and, indirectly, his
friendship with Burgess. Gannon, struck by the similarities between
what happened to him and Shelley’s own experience, does not
believe the deaths to be happenstance but rather connected
incidents with the police department fire as their nexus.

Notwithstanding the hard feelings between the two --- Shelley
for being kidnapped, Gannon for the irreparable damage done to his
life and career --- they form a bristling, uneasy alliance as they
begin to investigate the circumstances of the fire and the people
who, with Burgess, were hailed as heroes. The investigation is a
difficult one. The prickly relationship between the two is the
least of their difficulties; Burgess, in addition to being sought
by the police, has been targeted by a pair of assassins who have
almost succeeded in killing her once and who will not be denied. In
order to unravel what has happened to both of them, Shelley and
Gannon will have to investigate a fire that has long grown cold and
the individuals who were hailed as heroes on that fateful day.

Surprises abound; uncovering the secrets and deceptions of the
present uncover deeds that have lain quiet for years. Shelley and
Gannon slowly come to the truth of what transpired on the day of
the fire, as well as what subsequently happened to them, even as
they acknowledge a passionate attraction toward each other that
cannot be ignored.

Brown continues to demonstrate that she is a master of writing a
plausible, fast-paced mystery that keeps the surprises coming
almost until the last few paragraphs. She is also capable of
crafting extremely erotic scenes into her books. I may have to
modify my attitude toward body piercing as a result of some of the
passages here, which I carefully perused again and again. Whether
you have read everything that Brown has ever written, or are new to
her, SMOKE SCREEN will satisfy completely, never letting you
down.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Smoke Screen
by Sandra Brown

  • Publication Date: August 12, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1416563067
  • ISBN-13: 9781416563068