Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
Summary from Netgalley:
John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders-but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves.
But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.
Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.
I am kind of surprised how much I liked this book. Smoke was an endearing character that I really felt sorry for, at times. He had a horrible childhood and was convicted of a murder that he didn’t commit, although he admits the other one was in self defense. The depiction of the juvenile detention center felt authentic, although I’ve never been in one, I’ve worked in group homes with similar types of kids. The culture inside is so different and you really have to find your niche to survive. Smoke’s commodity is information. Because he can travel outside his body and not be seen, he can gather intel that others can not, and trade it for favors from other inmates and guards. The astral projection part of the story was an interesting twist. I think this is the first book I’ve read where this type of power was central to the story. It certainly added an interesting layer to the mystery plot. The mystery was well done, with lots of twists and turns and I kept changing my mind as to who had really committed the murder which was good. I also like the relationship that Smoke develops with Pink. I really like her, she had spunk and wasn’t afraid to help Smoke, even when her life was threatened. If you like mysteries with a paranormal twist I highly recommend this one.