Published by Harper Collins
E-book & Hardback : 16 June 2016 | Paperback 23 March 2017
The chilling new psychological thriller by S. K. Tremayne, author of the Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller, THE ICE TWINS.
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.’
I reviewed S K Tremayne’s debut. ‘The Ice Twins‘ here on the blog in 2014 and although the book has received mixed reviews, I very much enjoyed it. With this second book, the author appears to be sticking with the same formula of a psychological thriller with a supernatural feel.
The first chapter begins 178 days before Christmas. It remains to be seen whether Rachel is indeed ‘dead by Christmas’!
From its position on the Cornish coast, Carnhallow House could itself be regarded as a main character. An old rambling house, with unused rooms (it had 78 bedrooms!) it had a creepy gothic atmospheric feel which is very unsettling.
Initially I felt some sympathy for Rachel Daly. She married lawyer David Kerthern after a whirlwind romance but didn’t realise all the implications. She knew that he was widowed with a young son but was unaware of the exact detail of his previous wife’s death or that she would be taking on his family’s legacy of Carnhallow too – one that David will go to any lengths to protect. David is away a lot for work and she is left in the huge old house with his troubled young son Jamie. David’s mother Juliet lives on the estate but her own health problems mean that she can be of little help to Rachel. The influence of Nina, David’s first wife seems to be everywhere – from the partially completed restoration of Carnhallow and her notebooks detailing her plans for the project and even her clothes hidden in basement rooms. It’s not surprising that faced with the sophistication and apparent perfection of her predecessor, Rachel feels increasingly inadequate and out of her depth. As the story progressed it became clear that both Rachel and David were hiding secrets from each other and I began to wonder just how reliable Rachel’s versions of events were. As for Jamie – is he really seeing ghosts or just tormenting Rachel.
Whilst I did enjoy The Fire Child and found it very readable I felt it lacked the impact of The Ice Twins and for me the suspense wasn’t sustained throughout. The story seemed to slow down and meander, especially in the middle, although it later picked up at a faster pace and became a much more exciting read. It was certainly an unnerving read, made even more so by the changing weather – from the all-encompassing fog and mist to snow storms increasing the sense of isolation.
As with The Ice Twins, there are small black and white photographs separating the chapters. It’s fair to say that the story reminded me very much of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca‘ and I wondered if that was the author’s intention. It was an atmospheric tale which at times goes into great detail of the many derelict mines surrounding the house but I just found that overall there was a little too much description and not enough story. To summarise my thoughts on this one – I liked it….quite a lot (but I didn’t love it as much as I expected to).
My thanks to Lovereading and the publisher for the hardback copy.