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Monday 30 September 2013

‘Playing With Fire’ by Kerry Wilkinson

Published by Pam Macmillan,
18 July 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4472-2341-2

When Detective Sergeant Jessica Daniel is assigned to escort a newly-released arsonist, Martin Chadwick, from prison it should have been a simple task. However, somebody has alerted the media and Jessica has to smuggle Chadwick out of prison by hiding with him in the back of a van. In close proximity, Jessica gets to talk to Martin Chadwick and to listen to him. Although she has been a police officer long enough to feel cynical about criminals' protestations of remorse, Jessica finds that she believes Chadwick when he says how guilty he feels about setting the fire that killed a teenager, sleeping rough in the abandoned building. And also how sorry he is for what his seven years of imprisonment had done to his own son, Ryan, who had been taken into Social Services care.

Delivering Chadwick to his home, Jessica meets Ryan, an angry, bitter and confused eighteen-year-old. She is increasingly concerned by the way the media, led by local reporter Sebastian Lowe, is stirring up the simmering anger between the Martin and Ryan Chadwick and the dead teenager's father, Anthony Thompson. According to the newspapers, Thompson has uttered veiled threats against Chadwick. Her fears prove justified when Martin Chadwick's house is the subject of a graffiti attack and later gutted by fire.

In a separate case a teenage girl commits suicide. The events that follow indicate that the cases must be linked. Jessica and her colleagues struggle to untangle the events, to the background of media speculation, orchestrated by the charismatic Sebastian Lowe. Not for the first time in her career, Jessica bends the rules, this time by enlisting the help of Andrew Hunter, a Private Investigator. Before the cases are solved, the lives of Jessica and her fiancé, Adam, are in peril, and Jessica has to decide exactly what should have priority in her life.

Playing With Fire is a fast-paced police procedural, with a feisty, female protagonist. The strands of the various cases are intriguing and neatly woven to provide a satisfactory conclusion. Two themes run through the book: one is parental love and parental responsibility and the hideous sense of loss and helplessness when parents fail to keep their children safe. The other theme is fire and its aftermath, which is described in vivid, sensory detail.

Playing With Fire is the fifth book in the series featuring Jessica Daniel, but stands by itself, with just enough detail to inform new readers of Jessica's back-story and her relationships. It is a very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Kerry Wilkinson is something of an accidental author. His debut, Locked In, was written as a challenge to himself but, after self-publishing, it became a UK number one bestseller within three months of release. His three initial Jessica Daniel books sold over 300,000 copies through word-of-mouth, making him Amazon's UK No.1 author for the final quarter of 2011, its biggest-ever sales period. In February 2012, he agreed a six-book deal with Pan Macmillan for the Jessica Daniel books. In October 2012, it was announced the same publisher had also bought a sci-fi/fantasy/adventure series - the Silver Blackthorn trilogy - which will start to be released in October/November 2013.
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, published July 2013.

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