Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date – 6 February 2020
Source – review copy
When a development in South London catches fire mid-construction, a close-knit team of fire fighters runs in to save a man spotted at the window.
They come out without a body. They quit the service. They plan never to speak to each other again.
Five years later one of them is set alight at his own wedding. Soon after, a second is found, nothing but a smoking corpse. It appears that someone knows what they did that night. What they chose over their duty. And there are still three men left to burn . . .
DI Alex Finn and his new partner DC Mattie Paulsen are an unlikely pairing, but they need to discover who is behind these killings before the next man faces the fire.
A groom is found on fire at his wedding reception. DI Alex Finn, on compassionate leave after the death of his wife, finds himself drawn into the death of the former firefighter, using it as a distraction from his grief. Teamed up with the newly transferred DC Mattie Paulsen, the pair soon find themselves hunting a killer who appears to be untraceable. But then another man is found burnt alive and it turns out he was a former colleague of the first victim. It appears something happened to the men when they worked together and now the past is catching up with them.
Alex Finn has troubles, known from the outset when we see him and his wife discussing life after she has died. He joins the investigation the day after her funeral, desperate for something to make him feel normal. The reader is shown that he is not the old Alex Finn. He himself says he’s working at 80%, something he kicks himself for as the investigation stalls for what he feels are his failures.
Mattie Paulsen has her own issues. The pair clash but Finn sees behind Paulsen’s rather standoffish exterior. Hints are dropped throughout the novel as to why she is so prickly and almost antagonistic to her new colleagues. I did think that when that reason was revealed it didn’t tally completely. It appeared that she was the way she was despite of that reason, not because of it.
Along with Finn’s boss Skegman, and his colleague DS Jackie Ojo, the stage is set for more ensemble detecting in future books. All four are different characters, each with their own quirks but make for a formidable team.
The mystery itself was interesting. It’s not often a murderer’s method is to set fire to their victims. The scenes, whilst not overly graphic, do conjure less than appealing images. There are various strands that try to lead the reader away from the final denouement. I had guessed the killer before the reveal but that did not spoil my enjoyment of the story.
This was a interesting start to a promising new series. I look forward to reading more by Will Schindler in the future.