Firewatching by Russ Thomas

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Firewatching by Russ Thomas

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The first in a new crime series, set in Sheffield. It's a five-star cracker and I can't wait for the next book. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: February 2020
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1471180927

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Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is in the Cold Cas Review Unit at South Yorkshire Police and some think that he's lucky to be there, given that he decked a superior officer. He's there because Tyler came off worse in the exchange - there's a scar on his face to prove it - and the superior officer was forced to take early retirement. There's a suggestion too that Tyler's godmother (she's on the force too) has looked after him and that his current boss is keen to have a tame gay to put on the town hall steps come Pride. Either way, he's there, but without anything really interesting to get his teeth into.

There was a tenuous reason for his involving himself when a body was found bricked up at The Old Vicarage: it had been there a few years. And Inspector Jim Doggett isn't completely against the idea of having Tyler on the case. It was the slim chance of getting back into real policing that persuaded Tyler not to distance himself from the enquiry when he realised that the son of the dead man (and a possible suspect) is the young man he spent the night with only yesterday. Oscar Cartwright hasn't said anything directly, but you're on tenterhooks wondering when he's going to say the wrong thing.

Sheffield has another problem: there's an arsonist around and far too many of the fires seem to have a connection with the death of Gerald Cartwright. And Cartwright's is only the first death to be discovered.

There are a lot more detective series about than there used to be and - as someone who would read nothing else if it was possible - this should be a good thing, but they're variable, so the discovery of a new series of high quality is rather like winning the lottery for me. And Firewatching is classy. The writing is brilliant: I've been back to reread phrases, sentences and even whole paragraphs just for the pleasure of the words:

His eyes trudge up and down her body, just as they always do.

The characterisation is perfect. There's almost a resignation about Tyler: he's gay and he knows that it's not just that some people don't like what he's selling - they'd rather that he wasn't there to sell it. His father was a copper too, but he left the force in a coffin, by his own hand and with a suggestion that he was bent and took the easy way out before he was arrested. One or two people think otherwise and that's the reason why DI Jim Doggett is happy to have Tyler on the Cartwright case: if the son is as good as the father than he'll be OK. There's a substantial cast of characters, but Russ Thomas brings them all off the page and into your mind: I never found myself wondering who someone was and there are a lot of people I look forward to meeting again.

Thomas gives us the atmosphere of Sheffield well. I could smell the smog over the city at the end of a long, hot summer. It's subtle though - the industrial past is there but not laboured.

The best of the book is the plot. I had just about everybody bar the author pencilled in as the killer - and I still managed to get it wrong. The solution is satisfying - and all the clues were there: I just hadn't spotted them. I just hope I don't have to wait too long for the next book in the series. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If Firewatching appeals to you then you might also enjoy When the Dead Come Calling (Burrowhead Mysteries 1) by Helen Sedgwick. For more crime with an LGBT element try The Blind Goddess Blessed Are Those Who Thirst, both by Anne Holt and The Long Call (Two Rivers) by Ann Cleeves.

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Buy Firewatching by Russ Thomas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Firewatching by Russ Thomas at

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