Grand Central Publishing
March 28, 2017
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THE PERFECT HUSBAND. THE PERFECT STEPSON. THE PERFECT LIE?
When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.
But then Jamie's behavior changes, and Rachel's perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the specter of his late mother - David's previous wife. Is this Jamie's way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?
As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie's outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife's untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie's words:
"You will be dead by Christmas."((I changed the font color, but you can still highlight it and read it!)
I loved that The Fire Child starts at '178 Days Before Christmas' and each chapter tells readers how many days before Christmas it is. (That last bit of the book description doesn't actually show up in the book until more than one hundred and thirty pages in and I had forgotten it by the time I began reading, That's also why I semi-hid it above.) It builds the tension really well without actually telling you, right away, why or what. You know something is approaching at Christmas, but not what.
Contrasting that countdown with Rachel's joy over her new marriage, her arrival at Carnhallow, and trying to fit in with her husband, her stepson and her mother-in-law keeps you on edge, just a bit. You want to revel in the happy times, in her new life and how much of an improvement it seems to be for her . . . but you know something's coming. (And not only because I read The Ice Twins and know this isn't going to be a fairy tale.)
The way things unfolded, with both what took place and what we learned of the characters' pasts really kept me guessing at not only who they really were and what had really happened, but completely unsure how I felt about them. None of the characters in this book (not even eight-year-old Jamie) feel like someone you can trust or rely on. I wanted them to find their happily-ever-after, yet I also wanted them far, far away from each other. Sometimes at the same time. It was confusing, unsettling, tense and incredibly readable.
I have read a lot of books that mention being reminiscent of or having the same feel as Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca but this title, that has no mention of it, is the one that most brought the feeling of the classic to mind. The young woman marrying the rich, older man after a whirlwind courtship, then being taken to his grand but isolated home where his first wife died, of course sounds similar but it was more Rachel's feelings, how Nina seemed to be always there, but never a full truth of the whole story and that feeling of something that should - or could - be paradise but was somehow tainted.
I am still not quite sure we got all of the answers or that everything was explained quite as much as I hoped but the ending was very satisfying. It was both what I had hoped for earlier in the book, but vastly different in how it was achieved and why it worked. The characters were full of surprises, the story was tension filled and had so many twists and turns and conflicting emotions; it made for a great read. I loved The Ice Twins (review) and now The Fire Child, too.
digital review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley