Kelly, Erin - 'The Burning Air'
As Sophie's daughter Edie is born, Sophie's mother Lydia MacBride dies, having hidden her illness from her family as long as she can. Her illness is not the only thing she has hidden, as she has a guilty secret in her past, something she regrets. Gradually, as the story moves forward, the secret is eventually revealed. It's a secret that has driven someone to take revenge and which precipitates the events of the story.
It all starts with the a family gathering at Far Barn in Devon, where Rowan (Lydia's husband, and recently retired as headmaster of the Saxby Cathedral School), and the various children (Tara, Sophie and Felix), partners (Matt, Will and Kerry) and grandchildren (Toby, Leo, Charlie, Jake and Edie) gather for the weekend, to scatter Lydia's ashes on Bonfire night. Kerry is Felix's new and first 'proper' girlfriend, and is rather beautiful, though quiet. The whole family is intrigued and eager to get to know her. Although quiet, she appears to take a real shine to Sophie's new baby, Edie and offers to look after her, while the rest of the family go out to the bonfire spectacular. But when they return, Kerry and the baby are missing.
The story then takes us back to 1987, where a twelve-year-old child called Darcy, is being home-schooled by a dysfunctional mother, who is bitterly disappointed when Darcy fails to gain entrance to the Cathedral school. This has many consequences, including the attack on Felix that results in the loss of his eye. Eventually, Darcy finds a way to escape and becomes a 'blank canvas' finding a new life, even changing name.
A story then about a comfortable, middle-class, privileged family, their long buried secrets, and retribution. It's a complex story that manages to skillfully shift the reader's loyalties between the MacBride family and Darcy and back again as past events gradually unfold. The story of revenge has been long in the planning, and it's never really quite clear how deep the infiltration has been until the final denouement, and we finally learn what happens when the story returns to the present day, as the MacBrides are searching for Edie. This is a strong, psychological thriller, that keeps the reader guessing right up until the end.
Read another review of THE BURNING AIR.
Michelle Peckham, England