Well, hello bookworm, do come in! It’s lovely to see you again, but I hope you won’t mind me bustling about a little while we talk. You see, last night, when all should have been quiet in the bookshelves, a little exploratory party scuttled over to the crime shelves for a look at the latest series I’ve installed there by Catherine Fearns. It seems curiosity overcame the usual genre barriers and this particular rag tag group was made up of non-fiction, historical fiction and thriller books, with a romance book in there for good measure, probably to sneak a peek at the handsome protagonist, DI Darren Swift. Unfortunately their usual quarrels broke out in the end and I was rudely awoken by the sounds of books falling off shelves, loud complaints from the classics and a dragon coughing up a scale ball. Hence the mess you see around you. Do grab yourself a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate loaf to enjoy while I tell you all about the second Catherine Fearns book I’ve recently finished reading, called Consuming Fire.
Here’s the blurb:
What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen…
Liverpool is in the grip of an intense heatwave, and strange things are happening. A woman dies in an apparent case of Spontaneous Human Combustion; a truck explodes on the dockroad; the charred corpses of pets litter the city; forest fires ravage the pinewoods…and there are birds everywhere, silent flocks drawing in ominously.
Detective Inspector Darren Swift thinks there are connections, and his investigation delves into the worlds of football, nightclubs and organised crime. But is he imagining things?
Dr. Helen Hope doesn’t think so. And she believes the key lies in a mysterious seventeenth-century occult book which has gone missing from Liverpool Library.
In the blistering sequel to Reprobation, DI Swift is forced to confront some inconvenient ghosts from his past, as a terrifying shadow lies over his city’s reality…
Here’s a little about the author:
Catherine Fearns is a writer from Liverpool. Her novels Reprobation (2018) and Consuming Fire(2019) are published by Crooked Cat and are both Amazon bestsellers. A music journalist and author of short and non-fiction, Catherine also plays guitar in a heavy metal band. She lives with her husband and four children in Geneva, which features as a location in Consuming Fire.
And here’s my review: I am often a little nervous when I begin to read a second novel in a series when I enjoyed the first so much, as it can leave me disappointed. Within the first few pages of Consuming Fire, I knew my doubts were unfounded. What makes the author’s work so unique is the level of research and the careful blending of non-fiction with preternatural; fictional characters with real locations; and the clashes of different religions. I confess to googling Adramelech; seeing pictures of the demon with “the torso of a man, head and limbs of a mule and the tail of a peacock” made reading the novel even more realistic to me. The description of the 17th century occult book bound in human skin gave me chills, especially having seen the famous book covered in grave robber William Burke’s skin in a tiny museum in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
I enjoyed learning more about DI Darren Swift’s background and complex relationships, including his deepening friendship with Doctor Helen Hope. This novel can be read easily as a standalone but I definitely enjoyed seeing the difference in Helen’s confidence and spontaneity compared with the first novel due to the change in her circumstances.
The Killys are back in this novel too, the mafia crime family with sticky fingers in every nefarious pie. This time a fictional Liverpool FC footballer, who has married into the notorious gang, seems to have connections with the cases DI Swift is investigating. I had to smile ruefully at the description of a Liverpudlian woman at the Crosby crime scene, with an orange tan, black eyebrows and rollers in her hair (I swear I thought this was just a meme on the web years ago until I went into Liverpool city centre on a Saturday afternoon – google “scouse brow hair rollers” and you’ll see what I mean!). The Scouse dialect is present again in the character dialogues, which makes me feel right at home.
Another factor which makes this series stand out to me is the literary writing style. Normally I race through crime novels but every word seems to be carefully selected when a location or crime is described, which made me slow down and savour every page. I can’t recommend this series enough and have to give this book 5 stars.
If you like the sound of this crime thriller, just click on the book image above to go to the relevant page on Amazon (I don’t receive anything for providing the link, I’m just being a helpful bookworm). A huge thank you to the author, Crooked Cat books and Rachel’s Random Resources for the gifted copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.
I couldn’t complete this review without mentioning the strange phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion, the descriptions of which had me riveted. In the first NHS Trust I worked in, we had annual fire safety training and the lead fire officer always promised us that if we (all adults, I should mention) paid attention to the mandatory parts, he would answer our questions about his life in the fire brigade at the end. The most requested tale was always that of the call he attended as a young fire officer to a flat, following neighbours reporting the smell of smoke and concerns for a woman who lived alone. Her house was apparently tidy and decorated in typical British late seventies / early eighties decor, with an armchair facing a TV. Following the smell of charring, he approached the armchair from behind to see the remains of the woman – a small pile of ash and a pair of feet in their unmarked slippers, cauterised at the ankles. The armchair was only slightly singed despite the immense heat which would have been required to reduce this poor lady to ash…
And on that ominous note, I shall bid you farewell and humbly ask you to return for my review of Catherine Fearns’ latest book, Sound, on 18th November. Goodbye, bookworm!