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==Synopsis of the book:==
Murray Shaw is returning to his roots. He has purchased a dream house in Corstorphine very close to Edinburgh. Having been recently made redundant he is able to go up to the house ahead of his wife Rowan and his step son Elliott. As this is a big move for the family from London they want to ensure everything goes smoothly. Indeed Rowan has already got a job at the Edinburgh Parliament and they all hope Elliott will settle as the sixteen year old boy has recently been unsettled and getting into trouble.
However Murray has not been completely honest with Rowan about the purchase of this new home St Margaret's House and as soon as she joins her husband she finds out some disturbing information. As Murray didn't just stumble upon this property he actively sought it out and was prepared to pay the previous owners well over the usual value for this lovely house. Rowan starts to wonder why he decided it was this house he wanted and rather than feeling at home she is worried by what secrets and lies this classic property next to the scenic churchyard holds. What is Murray's thinking and what else is he hiding from his wife?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
This is the first book I have ever read from the author Sue Walker and to be honest I was very impressed with this very well written piece of fiction. Although in truth this is the fourth novel from this writer who wrote this five years after her début in 2004. There is a complement on the front cover by Karin Slaughter who compares this book to others written by Val McDermid, but for me on this one offering she has surpassed the writers performance.
I did not really have a choice about reading this book, as I was given this book by a friend who was very keen to know what I thought about it as she had just read it and enjoyed it. And when I first received the book I had not even heard of this Scottish writer before. I usually enjoy crime and thrillers so I was not sure if I would like this suspense story but I knew I needed to try and at least give my friend some feedback on this one.
Although when I looked at my paperback I was not too convinced if I would enjoy it. My first reason for my doubt was the title, 'The Burning' to me lacked much thought and even in hindsight I do not think the title did it justice at all. My other concern and again I know I should know better was the picture of on the front cover. It did nothing for me it had no intrigue it just showed a house, set in nice grounds that looked like all the ground floor lights where on. Maybe I was just being negative as admittedly when a friend has been raving about a book I am usually disappointed when I come to read it, but in this case I was not I was very pleasantly impressed.
My doubts where at least silenced when I checked out the summary on the back of the book. It was on the short side with three brief paragraphs, but full of depth and made the story sound very interesting and built up suspense within it. Although again this is in hindsight I think the author probably gave a little too much away in this and even more than I gave away in my synopsis of the book. Although I do understand why she did this as she was keen to sell us the concepts behind the story and use several of the different themes to do this.
The story begins with a prologue that was three pages long. For me this set the scene and background to the story quite well, although it was a little misleading purposely. It did give the reader the immediate impression that Murray was hiding things from his wife. And it also brought immediately the feeling there was a history behind the house that may not be all good.
The story itself then followed Murray in his first couple of weeks as he tried to get the new place fit and ready for Rowan and Elliott. At this point I felt the story would focus on Murray but as time moved on and more was revealed the story actually followed all the stories main characters and shared their opinion and thoughts with the reader. I think this was excellent because you got to see what all the main characters felt and this really gave the reader an all round feel to not only the house but what was happening within its society.
I really liked the feel to the story, there was always something happening and quite a lot for the reader to think about and consider. The author was really excellent at creating an impressive sense of mystery about the incident that happened forty years ago but seemed as current and important as a news item that was happening now. It was just a little odd to me that Murray's move up to Scotland seemed to set a series of events off after all this time.
What really impressed me with this story was the sense of the unexpected that kept surfacing and because this was cleverly and intelligently written it was totally believable. I found I really enjoyed this twists and turns and never had much idea what the author had in store for us. I felt very involved in the story and the real suspense that the writer injected into both the story and the characters within it. Even Murray was not immune to this and I liked this idea that he was not being honest in what he was trying to do and what he was hiding from his family and the reader.
The longer the story went on the deeper the mystery developed. I had no idea what the answer or answers to this mystery was, all I knew was I needed to understand what happened and why. As the author was wonderful at casting doubt on all her main characters so that you wondered what the truth was and who could be trusted.
The stories pace increased as it developed which ended with a very well written and exciting conclusion. It was only at this point the truth was revealed and it took me by surprise, but when it was explained it all made perfect sense. It left me feeling satisfied as this conclusion more than exceeded my by now high expectations for the story. And although the last chapter of the book was not called the epilogue that's exactly what it was. It had a real sense of realism and honesty about it that left me feeling satisfied with what I had read.
When I began reading the book I was expecting Murray to be the leading character within this suspense story but I was wrong. As Rowan his wife came more into the story and the further the story developed the more that was written from her perspective and her investigating what had happened and was still happening. I thought this was the right thing to do as it allowed Murray with his past to become a suspect in the mystery.
I found I really took to Rowan basically because she was as much in the dark as the reader was. She was an honest lady caught up in a mystery that initially had nothing to do with her. I found her to be a good thoughtful character who was trying to ensure that her son stayed on the straight and narrow. As a result of all this I found I really liked her and wanted her to be successful in getting to the bottom of what was happening.
She was well supported by several other key characters in the story. What I really liked about these was at various times within the story you got to see what they where doing and how they where feeling, this gave you a great insight into each ones personality. And in fact by doing this and shielding the reader from certain facts helped create more suspense and mystery within the story.
They were all cleverly thought out characters that where well described and easy to picture within the scenes they where part off.
My only other slight complaint that I had against the book was the poems that appeared periodically within the story. I thought these added no value to the story and at the same time where not very good. I am sure some would disagree and say they added more realism and mystery to the story but I just found the unnecessary.
I thought this book was very well written and was just the right length to tell an exciting and enthralling story. It was easy to read and at no point did I get confused as to what was happening and I found I get through it in a long weekend. With for once not an array of praise for the authors work in general that litters so many other writers books.
My first experience of Sue Walker writing had been very positive. This was for me an excellent suspense story that was easy for follow but also rich in depth and intrigue. I will tell my friend my thoughts and make sure I read another from this author in the near future.
Paperback version only:
Price: 7.19 (new at Amazon)
Year published: 2009
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPT Daniels February 2012