I’m a great fan of TV detective drama. The longer, two-hour episodic versions please me most. Currently I’m loving ‘Endeavour’, an ITV production, which is a prequel to the much loved ‘Inspector Morse’. I much prefer them to one-hour series, where everything is neatly wrapped up in a short time. You can very rarely guess ‘whodunnit’ in the longer dramas but in the one-hour stories, things sometimes seem a little contrived or you can guess at the start. It’s a pet hate of mine that I don’t like detective stories where we hear the murderer’s thoughts or worse, are introduced to them at the beginning. I love the reveal, the twist and the wow factor of the final denouement, especially where the odd subtle clue has been there all along!
So this month’s first review, The Burning Men, by Will Schindler and published Hodder and Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) on the 6th February had me twitching from its cover. As followers of this blog know, this reviewer doesn’t read the back blurb. However, here the front cover is emblazoned with “They left him to die. Now its their turn to burn”. So, I started to read with a sigh. How vexing! If I thought I was going to be disappointed, however, I was wrong.
The story has a great premise. Five years previously to its opening events, there was a fire at a major London development. A team of firefighters enter the building to rescue a trapped man. However, they leave the building without a body and shortly after they all quit the fire service and plan to never meet again. Now one of them has been set alight at his own wedding. Then, a second member of the team is found, as nothing but a smoking corpse. What happened that night in the burning development? Does someone know what choices they made over duty? Who is the killer?
Detective Inspector Alex Finn is assigned to the case. Very recently bereaved, he wants to immerse himself back into work as a way to cope with his grief. He has been assigned a new Detective Constable, Mattie Paulson, a woman with her own problems. Add in a longstanding and stalled related investigation and its problematic team and things get complicated. Will Alex be able to keep it together while he solves the case? Will Mattie overcome her own issues to forge a new working partnership with Alex?
As with life, what we know about someone is probably the tip of the iceberg in relation to their history, feelings and motivations. So, we join Alex and Mattie at a pivotal time in their lives. You might have the sense that you’d missed a couple of previous Alex Finn novels and had joined a little late in the party but all great detective characters in a crowded market need a sad back story, a problem with substance abuse, an attitude or a vulnerability to make you root for them. This is done to great effect here. I felt like this wasn’t the first book in a series, even though it was, and for once that was good. For a lover of detective fiction, this was a comfortable, satisfying read. There was nothing outlandish. It did exactly what you expected from the outset, except that phrase on the cover seemingly giving away the identity of the killer. I smugly read on, enjoying the story and the assured writing, but feeling I wasn’t suitably distracted by the range of suspects, because I thought I had it all worked out from the promotional headline. I spent most of the book, complaining about that headline saying, it shouldn’t be on the cover but at the end I was surprised by whodunnit and the clues were all there all the time, cleverly woven into the fabric of the story. I was suckered… I was delighted!
This is English author Will Schindler’s (@willshindler) debut novel and the first of a proposed series introducing the characters of DI Alex Finn and his new partner DC Mattie Paulson. Will Schindler has been a broadcast journalist for over twenty-five years and spent a decade working in TV drama as a scriptwriter for popular series like Born and Bred, The Bill and Doctors. He currently combines reading the news on BBC Radio London, with writing.
So, a very warm welcome to DI Alex Finn and DC Paulson. You are definitely on my ‘must get the next in series’ list. I’m keen to learn more about you. This novel and its characters who could easily become a TV series, owing to the author’s experience as a scriptwriter, which is evident though book and would definitely be of the two-hour episode variety.
Please take note! In the meantime, this is a hot recommendation for detective novel enthusiasts, so jump on your “Fire Engine” red bike and race down to your local book shop to buy it or download a copy of ‘The Burning Men’ and to blaze through its pages.
Reviewed by : Georgina Murphy
This review is part of a Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy of Burning Men, comeback and tell what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.