Review: Smoke and Ashes (Emily Slate #3) by Alex Sigmore


Print Length: 260 pages
Publisher: Eric Warren Author, LLC (August 1, 2022) 

From  When FBI Agent Emily Slate discovers a series of fires are being used to cover up the murder of firefighters, she’ll need all her skills as an investigator to flush out the killer.

A string of arson cases brings Emily to the historic city of Charleston right as she’s in the middle of trying to find the woman who killed her husband. Her personal investigation will have to wait, however, because the local community is on edge, having already lost two firefighters in these tragedies.

But before she can get very far, more blazes erupt throughout the city, causing a panic within the ranks. In each one, the victim is burned alive, from both the inside and out. And at each scene, a strange symbol remains in the rubble, leaving Emily to believe they’re working with a sick and twisted individual who has their sights set on something even bigger.

With the number of fires increasing by the day, and a city in panic, Emily must race against the clock to uncover the killer before they burn the entire city down with their rage.


My Rating: 1 star out of 5

Those of you who follow my reviews know that I have not had the best impression of this author, nor of this series. And yet, when I found myself with some downtime between the books I need to read and review, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to pick up the third book in the series, thinking that perhaps the author just needed some time to find their stride. 

And yet... this book was worse than the other two combined. Although, to be fair, I have a background in fire and EMS (Emergency Medical Services for anyone not familiar with the acronym) so maybe I should have passed on this one the second I saw that it had to deal with firefighters. But well, I didn't. And here we are. 

To begin with, the synopsis is wrong. The fires aren't used to cover up the murders of the firefighters as the firefighters themselves are used as human torches, and the killer goes out of their way to limit the damage outside of the bodies themselves. And herein lies one of the biggest issues that I have with this story. I have had the misfortune to be on calls where the bodies have been badly burnt. And at NO TIME did I ever liken the smell of burnt human flesh to the way roast beef, or barbeque smells. It is a very distinctive smell that is hard to describe, but the fact that this author chose to time and again refer to it as smelling like any other cooking meat just shows a lack of understanding on their part. 

This lack of understanding is highlighted later on when Slate and Farmer are handed N95 masks at one of the scenes, (these masks do nothing to prevent the smell by the way, and although they are sometimes used to help block out  smoke there was no smoke here for them to worry about).  However, a few sentences later it is said that the Chief was wearing his own "gas mask". Not only are N95 masks not considered gas masks, but  firefighters wear SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus)  gear and that isn't referred to as a gas mask either. Oh and while we are on the subject of SCBA tanks, there is no way someone would have been able to fill one with carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. 

I'm also confused as to why a member of ATF (Agent Farmer) was called out so soon when areas that have paid fire departments also tend to have their own arson investigation teams. It would have made more sense for Emily to have met with that person initially, and then have ATF join later on (in case you didn't know while ATF does stand for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, they do also investigate explosives and arson cases which is something that author should have included but didn't). 

Honestly, Farmer comes across as more a local arson investigator considering he has a long-standing friendship with the chief of the fire department whose men are dying. But for some reason the author didn't want to also include a police liaison in the mix, so used Farmer's status as an ATF agent to call his own forensics team.  Which again makes me wonder why there was absolutely no police involvement (aside from setting up perimeters and knocking on doors). Considering Agent Slate was originally sent there before they knew they had a serial killer on their hands, you would have thought there would be a detective at least from the local department involved as well.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system. Can we talk about how all of these books thus far deal with extreme misogyny in some way, shape or form? Although killing someone to cover up such a case was a little extreme in my opinion (especially since as much as I hate to admit it, the word of the victim against that of five other people who were all there as well could have easily been disproven even though it was the truth, and how much of a slap in the face is that to women everywhere)? 

As to who the killer was, while I had worked out that there was a major thing Slate and Farmer were overlooking (and honestly, I expected better from both of them), I was wrong on who the killer was so kudos to the author for making me think it was one person when it was someone else (although my original suspect could have filled the role of killer). 

I will reluctantly, admit that the ending of this one as well as the synopsis for the next one have me just intrigued enough that I will probably read it. I mean, having Emily come face to face with the woman who she believes murdered her husband? It can only go up from here right?

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