Published: 18th April 2019
Started reading: May 7
Finished reading: May 10
Trigger warnings: Child death, animal death
It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.
The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.
Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?
Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.
Because this fire wasn’t an accident.
It was murder.
This was unquestionably one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. The first two books in this series contained almost everything you look for in a modern crime thriller, with fast-paced writing, a set of well developed characters, and fascinating cases that keep you guessing throughout.
I am delighted to say that it follows in a very similar pattern here, and is just as much of a page-turner. This was an absorbing read that presented another compelling case, which grew increasingly complex as multiple strands were introduced, and although it did not contain quite as many twists as the previous two books, I still found it difficult to put down.
The case surrounds a house fire that devastates a family and leads to a lot of questions, especially about how it started and the circumstances leading up to it. The homeowner is missing and it is hard to find a clear motive for many of the potential suspects, so despite the fast pace of the story and the steady flow of the writing, the actual investigation moves along fairly slowly.
The characters are extremely well conceived. By now, three books into the series, DI Fawley and all of his police colleagues have become very familiar. All of them have distinct personalities and over the course of this book they are enhanced even further, showing a great level of development. It also helps that Cara Hunter knows and understands all of her characters perfectly.
All of the suspects in the investigation were just as intriguing, and they were written in such a way that I felt as if I got to know them very quickly. Some of them were memorable, and often made me think twice about whether they should be considered as suspects.
Once again, this book is told from a wide variety of POVs. DI Fawley is in first person, and the loneliness and resentment of his personal situation really comes across well in the writing. I enjoyed following his storyline, as well as those of his colleagues as the investigation took hold.
The book is also told from the perspective of the victims in the year leading up to the fire and the events that ultimately caused it to happen. I found these extracts insightful and informative, and they helped to keep me guessing until the picture began to emerge towards the end.
Cara Hunter is excellent at finding numerous ways of telling the story, and here she supplements the narrative by including online and newspaper articles, floor plans, and an official fire report of the crime scene. It gives the series a very contemporary and interactive feel that I have really liked right from the beginning.
The writing style is sharp and fast-paced in a way that always makes me want to read on. I feel like the writing as a whole has become more confident as the series has progressed, and it felt very noticeable here.
However, I did have a few minor issues with this book. I was hoping for the case to contain more twists and turns, and I found the ending a little underwhelming. There were one or two questions that I felt were left unanswered, and upon finishing I was left wanting to find out slightly more.
Overall, this was another fabulous book in what has already become one of my favourite crime series. The case is consuming, the character development continues to impress, and it was simply very hard to put down. I was hoping for a slightly better ending, but otherwise, it was great.
I had high expectations for this book and was not left disappointed. Once again, Cara Hunter has written a great police procedural.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐