When the Smoke Clears: Deadly Reunions, Book 1
Alexia Allen had a traumatic childhood. Her alcoholic father was verbally and physically abusive, and during an altercation, Alexia inadvertently started a fire that almost killed her father, damaged her home, and drove her sister to commit suicide. Not long after the fire, her mother kicked her out of the house, telling Alexia, in essence, not to let the door hit her on the way out. Alexia left Columbia, South Carolina, determined to never look back.
Fast forward 10 years. Alexia is now a smokejumper in Washington. During a fire call, she discovers that someone tampered with her air hose. Despite a direct order from her captain to evacuate the building, she puts herself in danger to rescue a child. Regardless of the fact that she and the kid got out okay, her captain suspends her until further notice.
"WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS...is like a never-ending roller coaster ride that grips you from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the final page."
At the same time, Alexia receives an invitation to her 10-year high school reunion. Although she doesn’t feel ready to return to her hometown, one of her best friends, Serena Hopkins (a character from the author’s previous Women of Justice series) informs her that Alexia’s mother is in the hospital. Alexia is still angry at her mother for rejecting her years ago, but Serena convinces her that it may be time to go home and deal with the past, once and for all.
Upon arriving at her childhood home, where her mother still resides, Alexia discovers her high school boyfriend in the basement, bleeding from a stab wound. He dies while she is trying to save him. The evidence points to Alexia, and it soon becomes apparent that someone is setting her up. But who?
WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS, the first book in Lynette Eason’s Deadly Reunions series, is like a never-ending roller coaster ride that grips you from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the final page. And even then, it’s not really over because many plot holes remain, setting the stage and leaving plenty of anticipation for the second installment. Like a roller coaster, this story contains non-stop action and lots of thrills. Eason keeps the momentum going by adding unexpected twists and turns just when you think things will slow down a bit. This, of course, makes for a great suspense novel, which the author is known for.
But in between dodging bullets and car bombs, there is also time for romance. Two men vie for Alexia’s affections while at the same time trying to protect her. That those two men happen to be brothers adds some extra conflict. But Alexia’s heart is set on only one man, much to his delight and his brother’s frustration.
Though there is no shortage of suspects as to who is trying to sabotage Alexia, I guessed the killer quite early on. But this didn’t prevent me from second-guessing myself a few times along the way. I’ll admit I was hoping that the book would involve more firefighting scenes --- or firefighter characters --- as the title implies. That said, I was satisfied with how it played out and, by the end, realized the significance of the title and its meaning.
WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARS is a fast-paced and suspenseful read, which may very well keep you up turning pages long after bedtime. As mentioned, there are several loose ends in the story that hopefully will be tied up in the next edition of the Deadly Reunions series. I eagerly await its release. Once you read this book, I suspect you will, too.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on February 17, 2012