fire child

‘You will be dead by Christmas.’

This dramatic declaration, uttered by eight-year-old Jamie to his new step-mother, Rachel, is pivotal to ‘The Fire Child’ and as the summer months count down to Christmas the tension and intensity of the book builds a to nail-biting finale. 

From her single life in London Rachel is quickly whisked off her feet by handsome but mysterious David and soon she finds herself in the midst of his family legacy and home of Carnhallow House in Cornwall. David is a loving and kind husband but often distant from her, both emotionally and also physically as his work takes him to London. His mother, Juliet, is welcoming but the sinister looms ever closer. Whilst Rachel quickly forms an attachment to her step-son, Jamie often appears disturbed by Rachel’s presence and he is haunted by visions of his dead mother; beautiful, angelic Nina who died in an accident eighteen months earlier. Nina who now it seems is proclaiming Rachel’s imminent demise. As Rachel seeks help for the boy, she finds her sanity brought into question as the past begins to catch up with her.

Tremayne weaves a wonderfully tight story with multiple threads coursing through the writing. Who is lying? Jamie? But why? Or is it David with his deep sense of duty to keep the family legacy alive? Or even Rachel herself? 

Following in Nina’s footsteps, Rachel tries to continue the excellent restoration carried out by Nina of the stunning estate which sits upon the tin tunnels dating back to the previous century. Nearby lies Morvellen Mine – the site of Nina’s death.

The emotional detachment of both David and Jamie is mirrored in the remote location of the house. The suffocating, claustrophobic atmosphere is brilliantly brought to life; Rachel’s isolation emotionally and physically is emphasised in every chapter and rendered more immediate through the first person perspective. Her loneliness is palpable and reflected in the increasingly colder climate, darker days, gloomier light.The novel is steeped with tension, spine-tingling and even though I read this on warm summer days I still felt chilly and had goosebumps. The book has many similarities with Daphne du Maurier’s chilling ‘Rebecca’ and its powerful use of pathetic fallacy evoking a sense of a dark foreboding threat, madness and even death.

Half-way through the book I felt it had reached its climax and I honestly wondered where it would go; how or even if the author could continue this crescendo of suspense. I needn’t have worried. Through the use of David’s voice in the third person interspersed with Rachel’s continued narrative the author brings the book through unimaginable twists and turns to its dramatic conclusion. 

‘The Fire Child’ is a compulsive read, eerie, tense, well-crafted and cleverly plotted. I found myself walking and trying to unravel its intricacies – who was the real victim? Who was the culprit?  How and why did really Nina die? My only reason for not giving this book five stars is that I never totally empathised with any of the characters. Admittedly they were fully developed and well portrayed but I hesitated in giving my heart to any one of them. That said, this is up there with the best of this year’s psychological thrillers.

Finally a thank you to S. K. Tremayne (a pseudonym for journalist Sean Thomas who also writes as Tom Knox) for the fascinating history of the 4,000-year-old  tin mining industry of Cornwall, highlighting just some of its horrific and terrifying practices. The factual elements were seamlessly incorporated into this work of fiction.tinmine

A Cornish Tin Mine Ruin

netgalleyI received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest and impartial review.

Rating:                          4 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                     HarperCollins UK

Publication Date:        16th June  2016                         


£ 6.00  Hardback – Amazon UK       

£ 4.99 Kindle (available 28th March 2017)  –  Amazon UK                                                                  £ 7.99 Paperback (available 9th February 2017)  – Amazon UK

From  $ 5.81 Hardback – Amazon US


  1. Anonymous

    Great review Annika (as always) . The line ‘You will be dead by Christmas” has got me hooked. Plus the mix of Cornwall and tin mines. It’s on my list of books to read.


    1. Cornwall is beautifully depicted, Mike and the sense of the dramatic is never far away. As for the tin mines they provided a great backdrop to the book and although just touched upon, I was intrigued enough to read up more about it afterwards. With these two elements alone I think this is a book you’d love.

    1. Miriam, all through the book I couldn’t help but think of Rebecca and draw comparisons – the atmosphere in both is captured brilliantly and the increasing sense of madness well portrayed. Please, do let me know what you think of the book if you get to read it.

    1. Engrossing is the word – I barely emerged from the story whilst reading it and my mind was still in Cornwall and Rachel’s supposed imminent demise whilst out and about on holiday! 😀

  2. Annika, great review. This does sound like perfect, late fall reading when the days become shorter and the darkness creeps in. I sort of thought of Wuthering Heights for some reason (maybe it was the dead wife). I appreciate a talented author who can weave multiple story threads in a book.

    1. Lana, I hadn’t thought of Withering Heights but great connection and working with the dramatic landscape in a similar vein as well. As a reader I was working hard to keep control of all the strands of the story, I did begin to wonder how the writer tackled the planning for it – would love to see his plotting board!😃

    1. Julie, I know, I know…I’m currently running three different lists! One for WP authors I’m contact with, one for Indie authors and another general fiction one!! Good stress though??😀

    1. Jacqui, I know once started I read relentlessly as I had to find out what happened asap! Think you might like this one…also there is a slight twist on step-family idea…that’s my only hint!

  3. Annika, this sounds like a wonderful book full of suspense. Just the kind of book where you need to lock yourself up in your room for the week for uninterrupted reading. I’ll need to find a copy. Thanks for the excellent review…

    1. Thanks, JC – not sure about locking yourself away in a room to read though! I definitely needed the break to reality to escape the tension building as winter loomed over the house and the threats to Rachel seemed to abound. As for getting a copy, there seems to have been some changes here and the only way you can really get a copy is by ordering a hardback copy which will come from the UK. I have updated all the links now, as noticed the UK kindle and paperback are also not available until next year.

  4. I like when a book includes facts and history within the plot. The facts about the Cornish tin mining trade will supply educational background.
    Historical fiction used to be my favorite type of reading, Annika. How wonderful to add a thriller with psychological elements. Your review was very interesting and informative. 🙂

    1. Robin, as this is set in modern times (with the usual terrible mobile reception!) this isn’t historical fiction as such but the details of the tin mining industry add a wonderful addition layer to the book – it had me googling this part of Cornwall history afterwards. So glad you liked the review!

      1. Oh, thank you for the clarification. I may have just meant to say I like when real elements of a books setting includes history. I think lately due to distractions, it would be best received if I just said, “Fine review and interesting book!”

        1. Oh, Robin, please never change the way you answer on blogs – it’s this personal interchange that makes it all worth while. ❤️ I love ‘chatting’ with you and we share so many interests.I was worried I might have confused readers by going on about the tin mining too much that was all. 😀😀

          1. No way I could change too much, in my writing. I am inspired by writers so try to keep evolving in my own writing skills. Sometimes, on my blog I used to write 2000 word “essays” and my youngest daughter “set me straight” saying I needed to add pictures and less words.
            Thank you for such a kind and yes, friend-ly response. I enjoy our chats, too. 🙂

    1. I hadn’t thought of that, Bernadette, but you’re definitely right! The misty early evenings will add to the already suspenseful atmosphere – I read it on long hot summer days and it still had me shivering!

    1. David, this book requires endless cups of camomile but even so I feel it will not touch the suspense around the story! 😀 Love that my review echoes the book with being ‘tantalisingly eerie’!

    1. Christy, thank you so much for your comment. This book really had me guessing and I loved its continued twists – the ones surrounding Rachel were unexpected but afterwards realise these with the cornerstone of the book. It was brilliantly done.

  5. delphini510

    Annika, now you are leaving me in suspense and I know you won’t tell if Rachel survives Christmas. What a complex and fascinating tale. Did Nina have an accident of was she murdered? She gradually seems to take over Rachel’s persona. Well, there is nothing for it; I will have to read it.:)
    Excellent review!

    1. Mirja…I see your mind already doing the mental somersaults I experienced whilst reading the book! Well, Rachel…no, I can’t tell you. It is rather tricky writing book reviews without giving too much away! I hope you enjoy it and do let me know what you think afterwards…it will keep you guessing until the end!

    1. Such truth in your comment that the books you remember months, even later, really are great – often having a terrific story, well-written and memorable characters. I imagine this one will definitely stay with me a long while – if nothing else for the brilliantly evocative description of Cornwall, particularly in winter!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s