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Review of The Fireman, a novel by Stephen Leather
The subject of this review is a paperback novel published by Hodder Paperbacks, 336 pages, ISBN 978-0340960714, cover price £5.99. Genre- Crime/Thriller
This novel is currently available amazon in paperback from just 0.01p + P&P or in Kindle format for £4.99.
The plot is set in the late 1980's; this is of course prior to the take-over of Hong Kong by China.
A London based crime reporting journalist takes a call at work from a Hong Kong Police Inspector. The Police Officer breaks the news that the journalist's younger sister, Sally has died following a fall from a hotel window fifteen floors up. The death is being treated as suicide and the Inspector asks that the journalist travels to Hong Kong as he is listed as Sally's next of kin.
The inspector explains that Sally's body will need to be formally identified and the reporter, although shocked, makes arrangements to travel to Hong Kong. He is given a leave of absence from his job in order to go to Hong Kong and wind up his sister's affairs.
The reporter is dismayed to find that the Hong Kong authorities are uncompromising and despite his best efforts, a suicide verdict is passed. The reporter is not satisfied with this outcome and sets about delving into his sister's movements during the days leading up to her death.
He is surprised to find that his sister led an opulent lifestyle, far and above that which he would have expected a young rookie journalist to be able to afford. He begins to think that he did not know his younger sister at all and the close relationship the pair had enjoyed must have been a sham. They may have lived in different countries, but he had always felt they were a close knit pair, especially since their father had died. He cannot shake off the thoughts that Sally was a bright, successful young woman with everything going her way, so why would she leap fifteen floors to her death?
His investigations soon convince him that his sister was murdered and she was involved in things that she simply could not handle. As events unfold he finds himself drawn into a scenario of intrigue, mystery, diamond smuggling and other criminal activity as he attempts to clear his sister's name.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
Readers may have noticed that I have not mentioned the main character's name; the reason for this is that the author does not reveal the person's name at any point. This seems to be a recurring theme with Stephen Leather's books as in his novel 'PAY OFF'; the reader never learns the protagonist's name either!
The plot is painfully slow in the first few chapters, and to, be honest I very nearly gave up on the novel. Luckily the pace does pick up as the storyline unfolds. It was pretty obvious from early on that Sally's death was not suicide, but a murder, in fact we are virtually told this right at the very beginning and this rather spoiled the story for me as a reader. With a thriller or mystery novel, I prefer to learn the facts as the plot unfolds, I would rather not know the outcome. To me there is more reading enjoyment in watching the lead character solve the problem and learning with them!
There is a lot of bribery and corruption underlying the series of events. However, in my opinion, the story doesn't really go anywhere and whilst the plot is tight once the initial few chapters have passed, and the dialogue is crisp, the characters lack depth and believability, they could have been far more rounded, which would have in turn improved the overall reading interest of the novel.
The constant inclusion of little anecdotes relating to the narrator's previous years seemed superfluous and the lack of a complete character leading the story totally spoiled this thriller for me.
I have read other novels from the author and on the whole enjoyed them, so I feel it is fair to say that The Fireman is one of his earlier books and it shows. Had this been my first experience of Stephen Leather's novels, I possibly would have not bothered with his subsequent books.
I am awarding this novel a 3* rating.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 December 2012
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