Book Review: Fires by Tom Ward (published by Crooked Cat Books)
This thriller is quite dark but kept me interested and is very relatable. It is set in modern times in a bleak, industrial city where the lives of two strangers, Guy and Nathan, become inextricably linked as Guy fights fires and arsonist Nathan likes to set them.
The book opens with a harrowing accident, where firefighter Guy has to attend to a raging blaze at his own home, dashing up to his first floor flat to save his wife and young daughter only to find he is too late. Suffering severe injuries, Guy awakens in the hospital to discover his loved ones’ funerals have been and gone, and he didn’t even get an invite. Suspicious, Guy recalls exactly what he saw of the two bodies at his home and starts to delve deeper into his wife and daughter’s deaths. He soon realises there’s some major foul play going on, and is hellbent on discovering who is to blame – and why. And then to wreak some fiery revenge.
Nineteen-year-old Nathan is disillusioned with life. He hates his low paid, low skilled job and is miserable with his girlfriend. On a drunken night out with his friends he gets in a fight to ‘protect’ a woman (who is more than capable of looking after herself) and becomes infatuated with her. The woman, Alexa, is similar in age to him and they share a love of arson. Combining Nathan’s mates and Alexa’s friend, they form a gang of firestarters who torch old, empty buildings around the city as well as Alexa’s old workplace, and then Nathan’s and then one of the gang’s workplaces… they are big on fires!
Guy, playing investigator to his family’s mysterious deaths believes at first that it’s Nathan and his gang who started the fire at his flat… but soon he learns, with the help of a newspaper reporter, that the local steelworks boss might have something to do with it – and other people even closer to Guy.
I really enjoyed this book, the story is set against a backdrop of a depressed, poverty stricken city where most of the inhabitants are just about getting by. This is contrasted with the wealthy corporate bigwigs who live in the nice part of town and are fixated with greed and material things. The steelworks boss is in the process of making workers redundant and, as the major employer of the town, there are lots of protests and riots, which our bunch of arsonists take advantage of to set stuff alight.
To me there seemed to be a subtle comment on class divide, a capitalist system that’s failing everyone apart from the few top dogs, and the desperate things some people will do for money to supplement their shite, unliveable wages. Nathan and Alexa just want to burn the city down, so that they can all start again. They are miserable in their mundane lives and gloomy city with empty buildings and no jobs. Even fireman Guy has zero trust in the police, and doesn’t go to them with his suspicions on the death of his family, preferring to take matters into his own hands.
All in all, a good, well-paced, thoughtful read!
I received a free review copy from the author.
My rating: 4/5
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