The Source of Smoke | Critical Book Review

A Blend of True Crime and Small Town Drama

V.L. Adams’ novel, “The Source of Smoke,” is touted as a thrilling fusion of true crime and small-town drama, promising an engaging narrative that will captivate readers’ attention. However, while it certainly has its merits, it’s not without its shortcomings.

A Familiar Premise with a Promising Start

“The Source of Smoke” kicks off with a rather familiar premise: Charlie Allen, the protagonist, is drawn back to her hometown in Oklahoma following the tragic murder of her sister, Dani. This setup is the cornerstone of countless mystery novels, and Adams doesn’t venture far from the beaten path. Charlie’s return is prompted by the desire to raise her niece amidst the memories of her late sister, an admirable motive but one that feels somewhat trite.

The Unopened Letters and Unanswered Questions

The narrative takes an intriguing turn when Charlie receives a series of letters from Darius, the convicted murderer of her sister, claiming his innocence. The premise of these unopened letters adds an element of suspense, yet it feels somewhat contrived. It takes until the third anniversary of Dani’s murder for Charlie to finally open one of the letters, and this delay raises questions about her character’s motivation and the believability of the plot.

Unearthing the Truth: A Determined Protagonist

Charlie’s determination to uncover the truth about her sister’s murder is commendable, and she emerges as a well-crafted, strong female lead. However, her relentless pursuit of justice in the face of overwhelming opposition sometimes borders on the implausible, as she faces disapproval from nearly everyone connected to the case. It strains credibility that Charlie’s actions go largely unchallenged by the authorities or her fellow townspeople.

Memorable Supporting Cast

While Charlie shines as the central character, the supporting cast is not to be overlooked. Adams has succeeded in imbuing each character with unique traits that contribute to the overall mystery surrounding Dani’s murder. Particularly notable is Charlie’s childhood friend, Winnie, who offers valuable perspective on Charlie’s quest, though their interactions often feel forced and overly convenient.

A Stifling Small Town Atmosphere

Adams deserves credit for her ability to infuse the small-town setting with both charm and stifling claustrophobia. The pervasive disapproval of Charlie’s actions by the town’s inhabitants effectively creates an atmosphere of tension and intrigue. However, at times, this disapproval becomes overwhelming and feels exaggerated for dramatic effect.

A Riveting Page-Turner with Some Pacing Issues

Fans of the true crime genre will undoubtedly find enjoyment in “The Source of Smoke.” Adams excels in maintaining a gripping pace, with each rumor and tidbit of gossip drawing readers deeper into the mystery. However, the pacing isn’t without its hiccups, and the story truly comes alive in the final quarter when the lies begin to unravel. This makes for a thrilling climax, but it also underscores some pacing issues in the earlier parts of the book.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, “The Source of Smoke” by V.L. Adams is a mixed bag. It combines the well-worn elements of true crime and small-town drama with moments of genuine suspense and intrigue. While the story has its flaws, including some questionable character motivations and pacing issues, it remains an engaging read that will likely appeal to fans of the genre.

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
New Degree PressMystery, Thriller & Suspense / Murder Mystery292 pages979-8885041478

A Blend of True Crime and Small Town Drama V.L. Adams’ novel, “The Source of Smoke,” is touted as a thrilling fusion of true crime and small-town drama, promising an engaging narrative that will captivate readers’ attention. However, while it certainly has its merits, it’s not without its shortcomings. A Familiar Premise with a Promising…