The Burning Air by Erin Kelly
Published in 2013 by Hodder Paperbacks
My copy: Library
The MacBrides have always gone to Far Barn in Devon for Bonfire Night, but this year everything is different. Lydia, the matriarch, is dead; Sophie, the eldest daughter, is desperately trying to repair a crumbling marriage; and Felix, the youngest of the family, has brought a girlfriend with him for the first time.
The girl, Kerry, seems odd in a way nobody can quite put their finger on – but when they leave her looking after Sophie’s baby daughter, and return to find both Kerry and the baby gone, they are forced to ask themselves if they have allowed a cuckoo into their nest . . .
Earlier this year I read and reviewed The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly and I enjoyed it, and vowed at the time to read more of her novels, so I was pleased to find this in the library.
We start off by meeting the MacBride family, with a particular focus on exhausted mum of three – soon to be four – Sophie. The action kicks in straight away as we find out about the family dynamic and we get a sense of what a close family they are, and how they are reeling from the recent death of mother Lydia. We know from the very start of the book that Lydia wanted to confess something on her deathbed, so already we are intrigued to know what has happened in her past. We also know from the blurb that Sophie’s new baby is about to go missing, and the build up to this takes up a good chunk of the start of the book.
Then we step back in time twenty years or so and are introduced to a few new characters – Darcy and mentally challenged mother Heather. There is a desperation to get Darcy into the local private school, but when this fails the small family falls apart. I loved this section – it was really intriguing and the characters were interesting – and you had to work hard to work out how this all pieced together with the current story. And best of all, there was a twist at the end of the section that really did take me by complete surprise and was brilliantly executed.
The novel continued to be a page-turner after this revelation and back in the present day, but I did find that it got very melodramatic after this point, and the ‘climax’ scene was quite over-the-top. Also the final twist was a bit of a damp squib, especially after the brilliant twist half way through.
However, despite this, I really enjoyed reading this book. It is very cleverly written and I didn’t find lots of gaping plotholes as you can sometimes do with these types of thriller. The characters were interesting and not everything turned out how you expected. It remained tense throughout and you do want to find out what has happened and piece everything together. I also liked the fact that the MacBrides aren’t a particularly pleasant bunch at times, so you are never quite sure where your sympathy lies.
Overall a very well written, tense thriller.