BLUE SMOKE
Nora Roberts

 


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Jove Paperback Edition, June 2006
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Baltimore

Eleven-year-old Reena’s family runs afoul of an arsonist, and the main casualty is the family’s thriving pizzeria. It doesn’t turn out so badly. Their entire Italian community pitches in to help them rebuild. That night precocious Reena discovered the fascinating beauty of fire. With the encouragement of one of the fire department officials, she sets her sights on becoming an arson investigator.

There is no one like Reena for concentrating when she chooses her goal. Her college friends have to really work to entice her away from her studies. One of those times, with an attractive man as the bait, Reena is dragged to a party. A fateful party, it turns out, because there Reena catches the eye of Bo, and then gets away before he can speak to her. Reena’s love life seems fated to be spectacularly bad, but now and then we catch a glimpse of Bo, still carrying a torch for the One That Got Away. It reminds us that focused career woman Reena is also an attractive girl.

Through the rigors of qualifying as a firefighter and on through police training, Reena’s focus on career wavers only briefly. She learns to be “one of the guys,” because her love life seems dogged by bad luck. What we know, and Reena doesn’t, is that someone is tracking her. Someone is making all her men die. Finally, when Reena reaches the Arson Squad, her nemesis is ready to bring her down. Slowly and painfully. For Reena the stakes are higher than ever before, because Bo has finally found her.

While Reena is concentrating on her career goals, what keeps her heart alive is her family. Her mother’s family is a huge, close-knit Italian group constantly in each other’s pockets. They are generous, demonstrative, and endlessly interested in each other’s business. They fuel the emotions of BLUE SMOKE better than Reena’s talent for arson detection could. The combination of community and competence keeps us looking forward from one challenge to the next.

Author Nora Roberts has the skill to make readers feel with her characters. There are those among my friends who could tell you exactly how poorly I reacted to the single Nora Roberts romance I read, but even in CAPTIVATED, I admired the writing. In BLUE SMOKE, by contrast, her main characters act believably, which gives a solid foundation to support her striking wording.

Roberts has obviously talked to urban firefighters. It gave her the understanding to make us feel that we are in the middle of the action. Reena is a strong, tough woman, and BLUE SMOKE is a strong, tough book – not in a gumshoe kind of way, but with a professionalism we can admire. After reading BLUE SMOKE, I strayed off schedule to read two more Nora Roberts mysteries. I recommend them for their humanity and muscle.

July 2006

 

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