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When one of my Goodreads friends sent me a book recommendation for Fire Damage by Kate Medina, I checked it out right away because she never failed in her suggestions before.
I always love discovering new mystery and thriller authors, and gripping books that can keep me up to the wee hours of the morning reading.
Having just finished reading the book, I can say that it ticks all the boxes for me. It is an engaging read, it has some gruesome crime scenes, and the main characters are well-fleshed out, not to mention the sparks that fly when the two are around each other (or even thinking about each other).
Fire Damage introduces us to Dr Jessie Flynn, a military psychologist treating soldiers of any ranks coming back with severe cases of PTSD from foreign countries.
She is not usually focusing on kids, so when Captain Ben Callan, one of her former patients, wants her help with a 4-year-old boy, Sami, whose father has just returned from Afghanistan with his face disfigured from severe burn wounds, she is reluctant to help. Sami is the son of Major Nick Scott and his wife, Noorie, and his trauma started right about the time his dad came back home from war.
Jessie has her own demons to fight as well. She has a severe case of OCD (since I have OCD to some degree as well – albeit not as bad as Jessie has it – I could easily relate), which makes interaction with people quite a burden.
The more Jessie learns about Sami, the more she wants to investigate. She feels that there is much more to this small boy’s story than his family wants to let on. There is something that no one is touching, and Jessie has to get to the bottom of it, no matter what.
At the same time, Ben Callan is working a case that tangentially touches the Scott family as well.
As the story progressed, it was interesting to learn how all the threads that were seemingly a tangled mess would lead to their natural conclusion. There were mysteries related to a Shadowman, to some rippling water, a little girl, and Sergeant Colin Starkey, a guy who is as secretive as scary to talk to.
I read the book in two afternoons, the second session lasting until about 12 am when I finally finished the last chapter. In the meantime, I’ve learned that Kate Medina has written two other books in the Jessie Flynn series, so I’ll have to hunt them down and read them because I want to see what happens next with Jessie and Ben. There is some real chemistry between those two badly broken people, and maybe, just maybe, they can be each other’s salvation.
The writing was engaging. Before this series, it seems that the author only wrote a first book, White Crocodile, but it’s clear that she is an experienced writer. While I knew that the story is set in the UK, I kept forgetting that part. Usually, European-centric books flow slower than the American ones. In Fire Damage, the story was fast-paced and the language used was in the veins of American thriller books (for me this is a good thing, as I love American thriller novels, their pace, and style).
I also found it appealing that, while the chemistry between Jessie and Ben sounded genuine, they didn’t really act on their attraction to each other, which happens so often in many thrillers. This was an authentic, dark thriller, where the hint of romance only added to its appeal and did not distract from it.
While I keep mentioning two characters, there was a third one that I found myself wanting to learn more about: DI Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons. In fact, there was a moment when I chuckled in the book, related to his nickname, but I won’t spoil it here.
I really want to learn more about Bobby and hope that he will feature prominently in the next books in the series as well.
Overall, I can’t praise this book enough to fans of dark, fast-paced and complex thrillers, where you keep thinking you figured out what would happen next but continuously get your theories shot down with the subsequent plot development.