When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.
But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?
As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:
‘You will be dead by Christmas.’
From HarperCollins, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.
This book has clear inspiration from Du Maurier’s Rebecca in that the second (named) wife is stepping into the shoes of a recently dead previous wife. Whilst I was part way through I realised it also has marked similarities to Tremayne’s previous book The Ice Twins – husband away a lot, nervous insecure wife with secrets that come out late in the book, child behaving oddly, bleak and isolated house and landscape taking on a life of it’s own. I started to worry that Tremayne was possibly a one trick pony – the names may change, but the fundamental story remains the same. To an extent this is true: whilst the Rebecca-esque presence of the previous wife is a change, as well as David’s need to continue the family name, the fundamental structure is very similar to The Ice Twins (to the point I could predict what one of the final surprises would look like).
That apart, the execution of the story in itself is excellent, with plenty of spooky events; the odd behaviour of Jamie, David and Rachel; the question over who is sane and who isn’t; the fact that all adults are lying to each other and themselves resulting in a level of fear and mistrust that only adds to the stress. The mines and shafts have their own lives that dominate the surrounding area and people.
Both The Ice Twins and The Fire Child are excellent books in and of themselves, but reading both has left me a little deflated with The Fire Child in its underlying sameness to the previous book. I know authors and publishers are under the pressure to keep recreate a book that has previously been successful, but this is the first in a long time that I’ve found a book *too* similar to a previous book. So I would recommend that people read one or the other book – then leave a long time before reading the next one. I am, unfortunately, now less excited for the next book by this author in the fear that it could be the same story again.
Crime Fiction Lover has also written a review of this book, and makes some suggestions as to other books you might want to look out for if you enjoyed this book or the setting.
Here is the review from Classic Mystery, who also manages to provide additional information as to the author (information which is outrageousl vague on sites like Goodreads!)