This thriller, set in a steel city in the UK, treats fire almost as one of its characters. After the opening, in which we meet the main protagonist, a fireman, we are plunged into a world of burning, where the fire officer arrives at his next conflagration only to discover it’s his own home. He enters to rescue his family and finds his wife and toddler daughter murdered in the master bedroom of the apartment. From this point, the story develops into a mystery as our hero seeks the monster who has killed his loved ones.
The investigation is compromised by the introduction of a group of dissatisfied teenagers intent on destroying old, disused buildings in the city by burning them as a protest against the neglect of their community. Increasingly violent demonstrations featuring the steelworkers protesting against potential redundancy at their works create further complications.
Characters are well drawn, with real, three-dimensional people acting as the reader would expect in the various situations they find themselves. Villains are shown as humans with flaws: some more flawed than others, it must be said.
As the mystery is slowly revealed, layer by layer, the reader discovers some of the players are not what they seemed initially.
The denouement is as satisfying as it is inevitable, given all the ingredients in this well-told story peopled by well-rounded characters.
Not a tale to read before bed, or if phobic about fire, this is an engaging, compelling, if distressing, novel.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can provide is an honest reaction to any given book.]