After the Fire by Karen Campbell

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After the Fire by Karen Campbell

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: Jamie Worth is a newly qualified firearms officer serving with the Glasgow police. One night after having been called to a routine incident, a teenage girl is dead and Jamie is shouldering the blame. This excellent novel tells of how badly things can go wrong if you make just one small mistake. That's when you find out who your friends really are...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 978-0340935613

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When I started reading After the Fire, I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it particularly when the very first page launched into quite graphic and hostile descriptions of prison life which didn't make very easy reading. However, I am so glad I stuck with this book as it developed into a fantastic multi-dimensional read.

Jamie Worth, a newly qualified firearms officer, is on his way to prison. It turns out that he has been convicted of murder having shot a teenage girl whilst on duty. Already traumatised by what has happened, his world is turned upside down when it seems that the Force is looking for a scapegoat and it's going to be him. Only Cath, his wife, and Anna, his former lover, still believe in him but can the two women forget the past in order to help Jamie?

After the brief introduction when Jamie goes to prison, the book is divided into two halves – Before and After. These refer to events leading up to Jamie's sentencing and then what happens once he is imprisoned - this worked particularly well.

I liked finding out what had happened on the night of the shooting and all the chaos that ensued. This was particularly well written and it was easy to imagine how orders could have become confused as the tension escalated. Even more fascinating though was to witness Jamie's behaviour afterwards as he struggled to come to terms with what he had caused to happen - as well as the slow realisation that the people that he worked with were not going to support him. Most poignant was the way he pushed Cath away and could not talk to her however hard she tried to help him. It's a very moving portrayal of how a tragedy such as this affects many people.

The After section is also an engrossing read. There's much graphic description of prisoner behaviour which isn't always comfortable to read. Because Jamie had been a policeman he came in for more abuse than most which meant a lot of time spent in solitary. Campbell is extremely good at showing how Jamie was feeling and it was moving to read about him at his lowest points. Life wasn't easy on the outside either as Cath struggled to bring up the children on no money and still managed to hold her head high. When Anna enters the scene, there is suddenly a sense of hope that the two women will manage to find out what really happened and clear Jamie's name.

All three main characters were totally believeable and I found myself starting to care what happened to them which is really important to me when I am reading. If I don't like the characters I am unlikely to enjoy the book. Luckily, this was not the case here, and I so wanted to find out what was going to happen to them that I found myself snatching odd moments to read throughout the day. This well paced, tense novel was so good that I didn't want to put it down.

This is a book that has everything including gritty prison and dramatic court scenes, insights into police procedures as well as some tender family moments. The transition between all of these is superb as is the pace which increases well as the story moves towards its climax.

I was a little confused by the title – After the Fire. At first I thought it might be some reference to the gunfire on that night, but after investigating a little further it appears that this book is a sequel to Karen Campbell's first novel The Twilight Time. It didn't spoil my enjoyment that I hadn't read the other book first but it has made me more than a little curious about what may have happened previously to the characters I got to know so well.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy crime thrillers with interesting characters, such as this, you may also wish to read Death Wore White by Jim Kelly.

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Buy After the Fire by Karen Campbell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy After the Fire by Karen Campbell at


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