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Up in Smoke    by Charlene Weir Amazon.com order for
Up in Smoke
by Charlene Weir
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Three women a possible murderer, a suicide waiting to happen, and a police chief all arrive in the small Kansas town of Hampstead to meet their destinies. Their actions bring them together in surprising ways. A political campaign for the nomination of a presidential candidate centers in Hampstead, bringing with it not only political hopefuls but a darkness of the worst kind unwavering ambition.

The charismatic governor of Kansas has decided that he should make a bid for the White House because he feels he can do some good in a world gone out of control. He uses his family's old farmhouse as a base of operations. A childhood buddy of his, crippled and living with the governor, is found dead from a bullet to the brain. Why? Why is Em stalking the governor? Why is Cass determined to end her life on Halloween night? Who murdered a woman and shoved the corpse into the trunk of a car? Who will the police chief arrest for that crime the governor or her own cousin Sean?

The writing is tight and the characters believable, so that it's easy to get involved in their motivations. Susan Wren, the police chief, has issues of her own, in addition to the challenges of running a police department. It's nice to see an official who is not sure of herself, but still manages to do the right thing. The plot of Up in Smoke is convoluted, but moves swiftly and smoothly, coming together in a breathless last scene.

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