Russ Thomas


"'This book will burn itself onto your memory and fire the imagination.'"


ONE WRONG MOVE: A body is found bricked into the walls of a house. From the state of the hands, it’s clear the dead man was buried alive. Soon, the victim is linked to an old missing person’s case and DS Adam Tyler is called.

WILL IGNITE: As the sole representative of South Yorkshire's Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler recognises his role for what it is – a means of keeping him out of the way following an ‘incident’. When this case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.

THE CITY: And then Tyler discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him. He makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors, certain that he and only he can solve the crime. But now Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth, without destroying the case or himself.

Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy affinity with fire…

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As when playing with fire, I need to tread carefully and make sure I don’t burn myself by giving anything away of this spine-tingling, fire feast that is ‘Firewatching’. The Old Vicarage is the scene of the discovery six years after the owner disappeared. It is from this find that the embers begin to be fanned, spluttering into flames, catching everything it touches, turning the whole investigation into an inferno. In the middle of it all is DS Adam Tyler blindly stumbling through the smoke and flames, losing his bearings, his perception of the case and the people involved. Thomas has an innate ability of obscuring the whole picture with a smokescreen. Nothing is crystal clear, nothing can be made out with so much fire and destruction going on. How is it all related to the body in the cellar? It all leads to a thrilling and explosive conclusion. DS Tyler is a conundrum himself and I hope that Thomas explores his character in further detail, especially with the whole drama about his own father. And this is a tale about fathers, the good, the bad and the ugly ones and how the choices of a parent can cause huge ripples, of water or even fire. Not since P.D. James has an author made a brick building, as Thomas does with The Old Vicarage, feel like a character, part of the cast filled with its own secrets waiting to be revealed. Am I talking in fiery riddles? All will be made very clear once you start reading ‘Firewatching’. It really is one of those books when you burn through the pages like the proverbial inferno… there’s that word again… This book will burn itself onto your memory and fire the imagination. ‘Firewatching’ has to be one of the hottest crime novels of 2020. Flame retardant gloves should be worn whilst reading this book!

Reviewed By:

Chris Simmons