Firstly I need to say that I loved Tremayne's debut novel THE ICE TWINS so much and when I saw that the author had a new psychological thriller out I was extremely excited and delighted to receive an preview copy from the publishers itself, HarperCollins Australia, that I thank for my copy.
Unfortunately, THE FIRE CHILD was for me an utter disappointement.
When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie. But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?
As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words: "You will be dead by Christmas."
One and only positive note in this book is certainly the atmosphere. There can be no doubt on the ability Tremayne in creating dark and unsettling atmosphere. In his debut, THE ICE TWINS, he had evoked the desolation of a remote Scottish island; in this, his second novel, THE FIRE CHILD, we are transported in Cornwall, surrounded by the ghosts of dead workers in the darkness of the abandoned mines, which run beneath the Carnhallow mansion and on which is based the richness of the ancient and powerful family of David.
As in the previous novel, in THE FIRE CHILD is not very clear whether or not the supernatural element has a role in this story. It seems to be the case when Jamie begins to have premonitory dreams which then turn out to be true, and the Nina ghost seems to haunt the halls of the gigantic and now dilapidated estate. The element of the unreliable narrator, Rachel, rocked by the events and consumed by fear and a history of mental instability that seems to resurface strongly in this time of mental and physical isolation, contribute to complicate the plot fueling the erratic behavior of little Jamie.
If you are interested in descriptive books and explanations of the mining sector in Cornwall, then you will enjoy this. If you are expecting a gripping psychological thriller prepare yourself for a huge disappointment. I initially thought that THE FIRE CHILD plot would develop slowly and I patiently went on in the story waiting for a huge plot twist. At about three quarters of the book I realized that the story was not going anywhere. The attempt to extend the sense of tension and suspense throughout the book using a not so credible supernaturalism began to have the opposite effect on me, I got bored.
This book lacked a credible story. The dark past of the protagonists is revealed in brief revelations scattered throughout the book, alternating with endless history lessons on Cornwall's mining past. The result was that I found myself skipping all the descriptive parts to get back to a story that ends, alas, with a totally implausible revelations and absolutely unrealistic.
I'm sure some people would like the descriptive nature of this book, but I found it very repetitive and verbose when it came to long descriptions that left little room for the main plot. The great commitment and the minutia of details that the author puts in describing the mines, could instead be used to develop better the real plot that is rather chaotic and rough, ending with an absurd and undeveloped final.
A big disappointment for a writer that I am sure, can do better.