“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 behavior changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the specter 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.'”
My Thoughts: With so many thrillers out on the market these days, a good one needs to be able to set itself apart from the masses. S. K. Tremayne’s approach is to take the idea of an unreliable narrator and add to it. In addition, he sets his novels in areas of the world that have tragic histories. With the atmosphere and mood set by the background and his upfront approach to unreliable narrators, he then must use the story itself to keep a reader’s interest and build the suspense. With The Fire Child, he succeeds in spades.
Tragedy abounds within the setting of The Fire Child, and Mr. Tremayne uses that tragedy to good advantage. Set among the ruins of the tin mines in Cornwall, Mr. Tremayne weaves its miserable history into the very fabric of the story. These mines and everything they represent in terms of human misery and abominable working conditions are a shadowy character that haunts the Carnhallow House and its occupants. Their ruins echo the human ruins they created, and the stories Rachel learns about the mines are more than a little grim. The pall they cast on the house is palpable and sets the bleakest of moods. Mr. Tremayne only adds to that pall as he establishes David’s relationship with his father and with his 1,000-year-old family past.
One of the best parts about the novel is the fact that Mr. Tremayne lets readers know from the very beginning that Rachel is not the most reliable of narrators. We find out very early on that she is keeping secrets from her husband, and the novel is not even at its halfway point before we learn what some of those secrets are. Knowing this so early into the story allows readers to let the story flow without having to worry about her trustworthiness. It even creates more suspense as we are left to wonder just who we can believe as things start spiraling out of control.
Things do spiral out of control and rather quickly. This brings to the story an inordinate amount of excitement as Rachel and David’s idyllic marriage is frankly somewhat nauseating to behold. They are proof that happiness is boring in a novel and that tension and strife are where the best stories occur. As things deteriorate, the reader should do nothing but hang on for the ride. To try to puzzle out the story’s trajectory is to miss the way Mr. Tremayne weaves doubt and madness into every scene.
The Fire Child is exciting and intense, but there is an undercurrent of sadness and regret to it that may surprise readers. This is in part due to the fact that Mr. Tremayne includes the history of the tin mines into as many scenes as possible, and the history is not pleasant. Grief is at the heart of the story, and it permeates all of the characters and their actions. The story is as tumultuous as the Cornwall beaches and weather, and it makes for outstanding reading.