A Lovely Way to Burn (Plague Times Trilogy 1) by Louise Welsh
|A Lovely Way to Burn (Plague Times Trilogy 1) by Louise Welsh|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: If an epidemic was sweeping the UK, threatening to wipe it out, who would notice a murder? What's more, in the chaos, how would you even begin to solve it? This is Louise Welsh's great premise, grippingly told - and the trilogy is only just beginning.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: John Murray|
|External links: Author's website|
The summer of the great heat wave is also the summer of death. Stevie thought nothing of the three establishment pillars turned snipers; the news just didn't register. Then the illness came: plague-like symptoms sweeping across the world. When Stevie's boyfriend dies it's easy to put it down to the pandemic but Stevie has a hunch and she won't stop till she's followed it, no matter what happens or who tries to stop her.
Acclaimed Scottish writer Louise Welsh grew up with a fascination for apocalyptic dramas such as The Survivors. Louise's writing talent meant that she's been able to convert that fascination into this, the first novel in her Plague Times Trilogy but not without a twist. Indeed this is no wholesale lift or too-derivative homage but something with a life of its own: a murder thriller against the backdrop of a sick and failing society that grabs us totally.
Ok, the motifs I remember from the original TV series (yes, I'm that old!) and recent remake are there: the army declaring martial law, looting, desperate behaviour from a frightened mob etc. However it's deftly woven into an exciting mystery, making it feel fresh. Stevie must discover how her boyfriend died and there's more than a decaying infrastructure trying to stop her.
The twists are cunningly collated; till almost the last moment credible characters provide us with alternative baddie options. Having said that, the character holding the story together is Stevie herself. She's an engaging lass, with no real super powers (apart from the investigative prowess befitting an ex-journalist) ensuring she's someone to whom we relate. She emanates a realistic fear without being portrayed as screamingly useless in an emergency (and there are quite a few emergencies).
There are also some interesting topical observations centring on not only the nature of our own society (differentiated from the fictional only by the aptly named 'sweats' and their effects) but also the nature, ethics and dichotomy of medical trials. Anyone who worries about having to absorb scientific treatises needn't worry though. Louise writes in an engagingly light style while not side-stepping explanations so we aren't assaulted by heavily technical language or concepts.
If you’re looking for a novel that communicates thrills and paranoia to the extent that you forget anywhere else you're meant to be until you finish, look no further. I should add a caveat though: you'll never again listen to a news item about a drug resistant 'super bug' without shivering, and that's even before Book 2 hits the bookshops. So, are you feeling brave?
Thank you, John Murray, for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If this appeals and you, like me, would like more of Ms Welsh, we recommend Naming the Bones. If you're already a fan or fancy sticking with pandemic apocalypse tales, we just as heartily recommend The Dog Stars by Peter Heller.
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