“It’s the spring of 2001 and Foot & Mouth disease is raging across Cumbria.
Twelve-year-old Helen Heslop is forced to leave her family farm and move in with relatives in a nearby town because the strict quarantine means she can’t travel back and forth to school in case she inadvertently helps spread the disease.
As the authorities and the local farming communities try desperately to contain the outbreak, tensions run high and everyone’s emotions are close to the surface.
And then Helen disappears.
The police search expands all over the northwest coast where farms are barricaded and farming families have been plunged into chaos – not least the Heslop family, where potentially explosive fault lines are exposed.
Under the strain tensions build inside the police team too, where local DC Maureen Pritchard is caught between old school DI Bell and new broom DS Anna Penrose.
Will Helen survive? And can life for the Heslop family ever be the same, once burning secrets are discovered and old scores settled?”
I’m delighted today to be one of the blogs rounding of the blog blitz for Burning Secrets by Ruth Sutton. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
This is a police procedural with a difference and the strongest part of the story for me is the dramatic backdrop of the terrible foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. The book really brings life the horrifying reality of the devastation this crisis wrought on the farming community, particularly in Cumbria where the book is set, as many farmers there barely eke out a living any way and this crisis brought many of them to breaking point. For people who know little about farming, this aspect of the book will be a real eye-opener.
As crime books go, this one is a bit of a slow burn, especially in the first half, although the tension definitely picks up in the second half. The case involves a missing girl and there is a lot of questioning and interviewing and not a huge amount of action to propel the book to begin with. I think the main problem was that I didn’t really feel that there was a lot of peril at the start, and it is the peril that really ramps up the tension in a book of this kind.
There wasn’t much introduction of the characters to begin with, which kept me at arms’ length from their stories to start with, although I did become more invested as we learnt more about them. It didn’t help that the majority of the characters were not particularly likeable, even the ones who we are supposed to be afraid for. The most developed and relatable of the characters were actually the police officers brought in to investigate the disappearance. They were all given very strong and individual personalities and I warmed to them all, even the awkward ones, and they carried this book for me.
This was a book I enjoyed passing a few hours with, I thought the story line was original and well-developed and the police procedural side was very interesting. I definitely was gripped through the second half, although I was not 100% satisfied by the ending. Entertaining, but not edge of your seat gripping. However, I would be interested in seeing what else the author can do.
Burning Secrets is out now and you can get a copy here.
To read more reviews, check out the other blogs taking part in the blitz as detailed below:
About the Author
Ruth is a very independent person, which – like many things – is good up to a point, but can get tricky sometimes. She lives in a very beautiful place, but it’s a long way to a cinema, or a big supermarket, and if the time comes when she can’t or doesn’t want to drive, she’ll have to move as there’s no public transport. She qualifies for a bus pass, but there aren’t any buses. Her daughter and her family live quite close by, and she loves to see her two grandchildren. After decades on her own, she has a partner whom she loves. They each have their own house, 40 minutes apart, and this life style suits them both. Ruth wrote her first novel after she was 60.
In addition, Ruth has self-published a trilogy entitled Between the Mountains and the Sea; A Good Liar tells the story of Jessie who risks career and independence with a love affair, whilst her secret past draws ever closer. Forgiven is set among the coal mines and fells of the Cumberland coast. Jessie’s struggle for happiness continues. Fallout features the nuclear disaster at Windscale, which brings a compelling stranger into Jessie’s world.
Connect with Ruth: