The fire seems like the main character…
I had never read anything by Jesse Kellerman, so I was happy to receive an advance review copy of the latest title in his Clay Edison series, The Burning, written in partnership with his father, Jonathan Kellerman. And I’m glad I got the chance to read it.
As I mentioned, this is my first read in this series, so at first I had trouble putting some of the pieces of the story together – especially the relationship between Clay and his brother, who has been in prison, but is now out, and appears to be going straight. There weren’t a lot of details about Luke in the beginning, and I didn’t know if that was deliberate on the authors’ part, or if I just didn’t know background I was supposed to know, since I hadn’t read the earlier titles. Also, without being spoiler-ish, since it happened early on, I wasn’t sure if Clay’s behavior when he saw some evidence at a crime scene that might (or might not) point to his brother was reasonable. The lengths he went to and the risks he took seemed a little over the top to me, so I had to purposefully suspend disbelief a few times while getting into the book.
Regardless of my initial uncertainty, however, once things got going there were three intriguing story lines that danced around each other – the original crime, Luke’s possible involvement/subsequent disappearance, and of course, the eponymous wildfire that formed an amazing background to the entire tale. And they wrapped up at the end with quite a twist. I’m a fan of police procedurals, and I appreciated seeing the “procedures” in The Burning from a deputy coroner’s perspective, rather than a more typical detective’s viewpoint. Oddly though, perhaps because we’re in the middle of another hot, dry season in California right now, the fire itself turned out to be the thing I remember the most after finishing the book.
All-in-all, I enjoyed The Burning, and will keep an eye out for the other books in the series. Although the mystery itself was worthy of five-stars, my early confusion, together with the fact that I found some of the (non-bad-guy) characters to be a bit unlikeable, bumped it down to a four-star read for me. (Yes, I know it may be shallow to want the characters to be relatable, but I am usually reading for recreation, which is just easier with likeable characters…) Please keep in mind, though, that I tend not to give many five-star reviews anyway, and four-stars is a solid “read” recommendation from me. And finally, my thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the review copy!