Smoke and Key

Smoke and Key
Age Range
Release Date
April 02, 2019
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She has no idea who or where she is. Or why she's dead. The only clue to her identity hangs around her neck: a single rusted key. This is how she and the others receive their names―from whatever belongings they had when they fell out of their graves. Under is a place of dirt and secrets, and Key is determined to discover the truth of her past in order to escape it. She needs help, but who can she trust? Ribbon seems content in Under, uninterested in finding answers. Doll’s silence hints at deep sorrow, which could be why she doesn't utter a word. There's Smoke, the boy with a fierceness that rivals even the living. And Journal, who stays apart from everyone else. Key's instincts tell her there is something remarkable about each of them, even if she can't remember why. Then the murders start. Bodies that are burned to a crisp. And after being burned, the dead stay dead. Key is running out of time to discover who she was―and what secret someone is willing to kill to keep hidden―before she loses her life for good…

Editor review

1 review
intriguing mystery
(Updated: March 31, 2019)
Overall rating
Writing Style
SMOKE AND KEY is an intriguing and macabre YA mystery. We follow Key into the world of Under as she wakes in her grave and then falls through to a world underneath the graveyard. She and the others of Under retain their memories of the world without any autobiographical memories. As such, they call themselves by the name of the object on their person when they fall into Under. Each person is in a different state of decay, depending on how long they were in their graves before falling into Under when their appearance freezes, giving some grisly descriptions.

Key, luckily, is pretty well preserved. She also feels that her memories lie just beneath the surface, and as though she can remember who she is. Drawn to Smoke (found with cigar and fancy cigar holder) and Journal (found with his journal), she feels that she can solve the mystery of Under which the others have been resigned to live.

The only way to die in Under is to be burnt to ashes. When bodies begin showing up burnt with their tongues cut out, Key will need to solve the mysteries not only of Under itself but also of the murderer, before it is too late.

This was a quickly moving and mysterious book with an element of horror (from the descriptions of people and the murders) that follows Key as she begins to dismantle the unknown through slowly arriving memories and searching. While the mystery is deliciously slow, the book reads very quickly as it is hard to leave Under without knowing the truth. The ending is left rather open, and we do not find the final end to the story- I would have liked more closure, but I understand why it was left as is.

Overall, this was a creepy and quick read that had me rapidly turning pages to learn more about Under and about its enigmatic residents. Readers of YA mysteries who like a touch of horror will enjoy this engaging fiction.
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