SMOKED by Elaine Macko

Alex Harris, partner with her sister in an employment agency business, and wife to a homicide detective, sees out of her window her neighbor caught in a big cloud of smoke from the leaves she was (illegally) burning.  She stumbles away from the fire, grasping at her throat, and collapses.  Alex rushes over simultaneously calling 911, but the neighbor has died.

This cozy mystery, cozy that is if you don’t mind your neighbors dropping dead in front of your eyes,  has the death ruled natural causes, because she died of anaphylactic shock.  Apparently, there was poison ivy in the pile of leaves, to which she was terribly allergic, and when she inhaled the smoke, it affected whatever poison ivy smoke affects.

But wait!  Not so fast.  She would never have put poison ivy in her leaf pile to burn.  She would have known better than that.  And an examination of the epi pens in her kitchen drawer found them to be empty!  It was then ruled murder, and the husband was hauled in, because the spouse is always the first to be suspected.

The adult daughter of the dead woman asks Alex to investigate to clear her father.   Huh?  Oh, right.  This is a series, and Smoked is in the middle of the series, and she has a history of finding dead bodies and solving cases, in spite of the police being active in the matter.  [Rolling eyes,  forgetting this is Cozy Mystery Land, where plausibility gives way to fantasy day dreams where we ordinary folk go around doing heroic deeds.]  So Alex spends half her time working in her business and the other half running around interviewing suspects, all of whom, nicely enough, are very happy to talk to her, and none of them say “WTH, go away.  I already talked to the police and you have no business nosing around in this affair and bothering me!”   Yeah.  Just like real life.

Alex’s investigations reveal that the dead woman was a real biotch, and the hubby was a serial cheater,  who at that moment had two women thinking they were engaged to him.  The dead woman had about four people whom she wronged, so there are lots of nifty suspects.

One thing I liked about the book was Alex’s family are all kind, sweet, loving people, which makes a nice change from the frequent tropes of clingy dependent ex-husbands, nasty mothers, horrible adult children, or vindictive neighbors.

A pleasant read, likeable characters and no, I did not figure out who dunnit.  I am so lame at this, even with a cozy.  I really have to step up my game.


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