Know Me From Smoke by Matt Phillips
Stella Radney, longtime lounge singer, still has a bullet lodged in her hip from the night when a rain of gunshots killed her husband. That was twenty years ago and it’s a surprise when the unsolved murder is reopened after the district attorney discovers new evidence.
Royal Atkins is a convicted killer who just got out of prison on a legal technicality. At first, he’s thinking he’ll play it straight. Doesn’t take long before that plan turns to smoke—was it ever really an option?
When Stella and Royal meet one night, they’re drawn to each other. But Royal has a secret. How long before Stella discovers that the man she’s falling for isn’t who he seems?
A noir of gripping suspense and violence, Know Me from Smoke is a journey into the shadowy terrain of murder, lost love, and the heart’s lust for vengeance.
THE FIRST PARAGRAPH
Three weeks before Christmas, a widowed lounge singer named Stella
Radney paid two hundred bucks to have a rotten molar pulled. It was a
gray Friday morning; sea-mist shone wet along the streets—the shop
windows were slick with it, a syrup-like coating Stella noticed as she
stepped off a southbound city bus. On the corner, she checked the
address written in black ink across her palm and headed west. It was the
only dentist she could find on short notice who took cash, and Stella had
to get this taken care of. Hell, she couldn’t sing with a toothache.
Lounge singer falls in love with ex-con who, unknown to her, murdered her beloved husband.
And that, that is as good a set-up as there is.
From the first moment Stella meets Royal, the reader feels the ground begin to shake – each page that goes by another tremor, each chapter the sound of the earth tearing itself apart. Because you know it’s coming. The moment she learns the truth.
Phillip’s prose, as evidenced by that beautiful first paragraph, is bleak and terse, oozing pain, the smell of suffering suffusing every word.
I read the entire book transfixed with dread, hurtling towards the inevitability of two hearts ripped asunder.
Know Me from Smoke is an absolutely stunning noir novel that deserves to be a staple of every noir readers book-shelf.
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