Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

The Burning Air
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Normally I would not read, much less agree to review a thriller. The genre as a whole has held little interest for me in the past. However, after reading the book synopsis of The Burning Air by Erin Kelly I immediately agreed to read and review the book. The synopsis promised heart stopping plot twists and deep dives into the human psyche… I was not disappointed.

Very simply the novel is about a family of privilege whom unknowingly destroy the mental health of a child with very little in his life. He comes back into their lives as an adult with a plot for revenge that will shake the entire family’s belief system. That being said the novel is actually very complicated with many twists and turns. The novel is centered around the MacBride family and divided into five section with a different narrator for each section. This structure in itself is a feat that many writers cannot successfully pull off. Often times the voices while labeled to be different all sound the same. In Kelly’s book each voice is unique and sometimes androgynous (Darcy’s section for example).

The novel begins with a confession. Lydia MacBride feels the need to vent her long held secret to her journal while on her deathbed. Her secret changed many people’s lives and it was all in the name of revenge. The first three pages taunt us with a nail biting build up to the one horrible thing Lydia, a moral compass for the MacBridge family, did in her life. We are left hanging and not allowed to read the words because of her death.

Immediately we are given a new narrator, Sophie, whom does not know about the event that lead Lydia to write her confession. While with Sophie we get much of the MacBride family history as we stroll back through memory lane with her at Far Barn where the entire family gathered to scattered Lydia’s ashes. As the family enjoys a night out together Edie, Sophie newly born girl, is left with Felix’s girlfriend Kerry. When they return the little girl and the mysterious Kerry are missing. In a desperate attempt to find any clues about the whereabouts of her daughter Sophie searches through Kerry’s bag only to find a name from the MacBride family past that make her insides drop.

Just as we find out that Kerry may have a connection to long held family enemy we are transported back in time to meet Darcy, the child whose life was stolen by the MacBrides. This section was my favorite section of the book. It held many surprises for me and by the end of it I was tense with anticipation about what was in store for the MacBride family at Far Barn in the present. There is much here that if I were to tell you now might spoil the ending for you so let me just say this, read this book because of section and you will thank me latter.

The last two sections of the book are from the viewpoint of Rowan the patriarch of the MacBride clan and Kerry the stranger to the family whom disappears with Edie. These last two sections while still thrilling are somewhat disappointing for me. Rowan is our narrator through the climax of the novel and, for me, is a bit too weak to carry this great responsibility for the reader. He misses a lot of clues and slowly stumbles to the realization of what is happening. I am not sure whom I would have liked to take us through this portion of the story but I would have liked a stronger narrator.

The last pages of the book we are with Kerry as she leaves the family after the main event (again HUGE spoiler if I tell you now) and discovers what Darcy had been longing to find for several years. She alone has the written confession of Lydia. Finally the reader is to discover her horrible dark secret. Even in the last pages of the novel we are still given surprises the confession had more in it than I thought at the beginning of the novel.

Overall this book was thrilling. An excellent read and I recommend it to anyone. The switch between narrators was well executed and the plot was strongly held onto even with all the twists and turns. My only complaints about the book were as mentioned, to take us through the climax I would really have liked a stronger narrator. Also, the confession aside, the ending was a bit of a let down. It sort of fizzled away at the end. The characters overall are wonderfully written to the point where even the “bad guys” you sort of hope will triumph. Wonderful book, I look forward to more from Erin Kelly.

Novel Moments:
“Sophie’s eye was drawn to a framed family snapshot, taken one summer when she was around seven and the others were babies: it was a thrown stone in the still pond of her grief, and she forced her gaze elsewhere.” (18)

“If this was a delusion, I was happy to nurture it. It is better travel hopefully than to arrive.” (102)

“This journal was a rambling interior of a fine but undisciplined mine, pages of unstructured emotion that, devoid of context, contrived to exclude the reader.” (111)

Note: I received this book from the publisher to review. In no way did it affect the content of this review.

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