Having read her later two novels, After The Interview and The Bride's Trail, I enjoyed returning to her original work to see where it all began. It tells the story of Susan, one of the few good characters, who seeks revenge on a major tobacco company after her husband dies from lung cancer.
By now, I knew what to expect from Abbott and I was not disappointed. Up In Smoke contains all of her trademark authorial motifs: shady corporate deals, the use of Birmingham and London as backdrops to the action, and a vast international cast with varying moral codes.
The characters are always a great reason to pick up an Abbott novel. Most of them are so unsympathetic and unlikeable that they capture your interest, which is why people are so addicted to shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Up In Smoke is like an entire novel of Lannisters and Underwoods!
The ever-present symbol of cigarettes is appropriate because these characters are filthy and rotten, like the cancer-sticks which they aggressively smoke.
Abbott writes from a kaleidoscope of perspectives, quickly switching between chauvinists, adulterers, addicts, smugglers, murderers and corporate spies. This mixture of anti-heroes and outright villains makes for compulsive reading because readers will never be sure who to root for, so you can just sit back and let the corruption unfold.
Abbott is generous with her ideas and does not miss an opportunity for debauchery, whether it be smuggling, seduction, sexual harassment, sabotage, strip clubs, vandalism, exploding packages, psychotic ex-wives or just plenty of sex and violence. You will never be bored.
Up In Smoke is like a pack of cigarettes: an addictive guilty pleasure.