At first The Fire Child seems very Rebecca: big old house in Cornwall; beautiful young woman dead in mysterious circumstances; rich, handsome widower marries in haste a much younger woman who has to adjust to becoming mistress of a great house. No Mrs Danvers. Instead there’s
The Kerthens have lived at Carnhallow for at least a thousand years and have made their money out of the tin mines on their land. David is obsessed with his own family history and the need for the line to continue. In order to maintain his inheritance he works all hours as a highly paid lawyer in London, only returning home at weekends. At the same time, he’s modern enough to feel some guilt about his ancestors’ behaviour: the terrible working conditions and numerous deaths of the miners who have made his family wealthy.
Rachel is so in love with David and so fond of her stepson that all seems well. But Jamie begins to behave strangely, with his apparent predictions. One day he tells Rachel that he has seen something very, very bad, something he doesn’t want to happen. ‘You are going to die by Christmas Day.’ Each chapter is headed ‘x days before Christmas’ so that as the date approaches, the reader is almost as frightened as Rachel. She’s lonely in the great house, feels haunted herself by the dead first wife and the dead miners she imagines to be right under the house. She starts to fear her apparently perfect husband. David has secrets. Rachel has demons of her own, events in her earlier life which are not revealed until near the end of the book. I can see why S K Tremayne’s The Ice Twins was a best seller because I could hardly put this book down but raced to the end to find out what would happen.
One little nitpick (I have to do this, don’t I?): ‘reiterate’ does not mean ‘repeat’, as in ‘repeating the mistakes of the past’. Editors, where were you? The Fire Child is a cracking read, published by Harper Collins. I read it courtesy of NetGalley.