‘Midnight Smoke’ – Firebrand #3 by Helen Harper

I’m continuing my back-to-back binge read of this series and I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve already read ‘Brimstone Bound’ and ‘Infernal Enchantment’. Now I’m on to ‘Midnight Smoke’.

The book opens with us finding out about Emma’s uncle, the man who raised her after her parents were murdered when she was a child. This was beautifully done. The strain of the gap between the two of them, each trying to do the right thing by the other, was palpable. I liked that the story started here, taking the time to get me back inside Emma’s head before plunging into that action.

Immediately after that, there’s a lot of very dramatic action, that makes great use of London as a setting and which has Emma right in the heart of things. Then there’s a ‘did that REALLY just happen?’ moment that’s very well done.

After that, the book takes on two tropes that I don’t normally enjoy, especially together: a ‘Groundhog Day’ structure and a heist theme. When I first realised that, my reaction was, ‘What a shame – I’ve enjoyed this series so far.’

I should have had more faith. ‘Midnight Smoke’ turned out to be a very enjoyable read.

Helen Harper handled the whole Groundhog Day thing skilfully. She didn’t make me sit through the same thing time after time with only small variations. Each ‘reset’ was quite different and made an interesting story in its own right. Adding the heist theme also provided a real puzzle to solve rather than using the Groundhog Day thing to make a character deepen their understanding of themselves.

This is the third book in the series and the benefits of all that world-building are starting to show. We’re dealing with characters from the two earlier books who have clear story arcs of their own. There’s also clear character and ability development for Emma, the main character, and changes in her relationships with the other characters.

The new characters are also interesting. The story brought Emma into conflict with a senior CID officer of the bully-bluster-and-bang-the-bastards-up variety who sees Emma as an irritating inexperienced girlie in the way of his investigation and who sees all Supernaturals as criminals, freaks and probably terrorists. As a picture of the Met under Cressida Dick, I found it very convincing and it made for some great confrontation scenes.

There was a bit more romance in this book, including the inevitable sex scene, but both fitted well into the storyline and character development and the writing was good enough that I never found myself rolling my eyes.

By the end of the book, looking back at the story arc for the series so far, I was able to admire how well the books in the series fit together. Each one is a full story but each story carries the people along a specific path.

Now, I want the fourth book, ‘Scorched Heart’, to see whether the series is going where I think it’s going.

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