I loved the setting for this book – it was atmospheric, full of heat and passion, and beautifully reflected the tense nature of the plot itself. This was intriguing, excellently written and tense throughout.
Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was troubled. Elodie is dead.
Sylvie hasn’t been back to her crumbling French family home in years. Not since the death of her eldest daughter Elodie.
Every corner of the old house feels haunted by memories of her – memories she has tried to forget.
But as temperatures rise, and forest fires rage through the French countryside, a long-buried family secret is about to come to light.
Because there’s something Sylvie’s been hiding about what really happened to Elodie that summer.
And it could change everything.
This book starts quickly, throwing the reader straight into the story as Sylvie returns to her old family home due to a fire. It starts the book off with a tense atmosphere, hooking the reader in straight away. The setting itself builds on this, with the forest fires in the background building on the suspense. As the fires get worse, the story comes to a head. It’s an excellent way of building on the plot further. The house itself is already slightly creepy and sinister, with the feeling that Sylvie and her daughter Emma are being watched. These two parts of the setting, the house and the background fires, work together really well.
The characters are also excellently written. It’s clear from the start that Sylvie is hiding something but it’s unclear what – although I imagine most readers will suspect a specific theory, much like I did. One thing Riordan does well however, is provide multiple reveals at times when the reader doesn’t always suspect it, so there’s always more to discover in this cryptic thriller. Sylvie is tense throughout, closed to Emma, yet clearly full of love. It’s a fascinating combination and I actually liked the secretive but protective nature she had.
The flashbacks into the past provided a glimpse into other characters, such as Elodie herself. She is truly fascinating – I loved her progression throughout the book as she got older. Her intelligence and twisted humour were excellently written, sometimes a description of her facial expression was enough for the reader to feel chills. This is evidence of Riordan’s brilliant writing and I loved how she presented each character.
It took me a bit of time to get used to the way this book was written from Sylvie’s perspective to her daughter Emma. It almost felt like an extended letter or explanation from Sylvie to Emma but I think this helped the reader feel more connected to Sylvie as we got a deep insight into how she felt. It also made us as a reader feel protective of Emma, and I don’t think this would have been achieved as easily without the ‘letter’ feel to the book.
The ending to this was an excellent finish to a book that was tense and creepy throughout. The fires were building, the house revealing more clues regarding the past and Sylvie’s final confession was coming to a head. It built up to a fantastic finish to a book I thoroughly enjoyed!
Michael Joseph, 3rd September 2020