Title: Burning Secrets by Ruth Sutton
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Date Published: 19th July 2018
Genre: Police Procedural, Mystery/Thriller
It’s the spring of 2001 and Foot & Mouth disease is raging across Cumbria.
Twelve-year-old Helen Heslop is forced to leave her family farm and move in with relatives in a nearby town because the strict quarantine means she can’t travel back and forth to school in case she inadvertently helps spread the disease.
As the authorities and the local farming communities try desperately to contain the outbreak, tensions run high and everyone’s emotions are close to the surface.
And then Helen disappears.
The police search expands all over the northwest coast where farms are barricaded and farming families have been plunged into chaos – not least the Hislop family, where potentially explosive fault lines are exposed.
Under the strain tensions build inside the police team too, where local DC Maureen Pritchard is caught between old school DI Bell and new broom DS Anna Penrose.
Will Helen survive? And can life for the Heslop family ever be the same, once burning secrets are discovered and old scores settled?
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Twelve-year-old Helen Heslop disappears on her way home from school. There’s no ransom demand and as time goes on the more worried they are especially as she has asthma but has forgotten her inhaler.
DC Maureen Pritchard has been on the force for twenty years and her local knowledge is second to none but she has been passed over for promotion by DS Anna Penrose, an outsider who used to be in the army’s police service. To top that off their boss DI Bell doesn’t like the fact that there are now two women on his team. They both believe that there’s something the family aren’t telling them and they must put aside their difference to find the little girl.
Burning Secrets is a gripping police procedural that had me biting my nails on several occasions. It is set back in 2001 at the height of the Foot and Mouth epidemic where thousands of cows were slaughtered. It created a rather bleak and desolate backdrop for the story, adding to the tension, showing the devastating effect on both farmers and the landscape, the burning pyres of animals and vans that were leaking fluids gave it a particularly visceral feel.
I liked Maureen, I felt her frustrations as she passed over for promotion, again and again. She’s a really instinctive copper, relying on gut instincts which usually turn out to be right. I also warmed to Anna through the book. She’s really in a tough spot, she’s an outsider and a woman to boot who a lot of people believe is just there to show how progressive the force are putting women in more senior positions. She’s the opposite to Maureen, as she wants evidence rather than intuition, and they play off against one another quite well. Then there’s DI Bell, who puts the Bell in bell end and that’s all I’m going to say on that one.
My only complaint was the ending was quite as satisfying as I’d hoped but I’m not going to say too much more on that for fear of spoilers.
Overall Burning Secrets is vivid drama, full of secrets and suspense that will keep you turning those pages.
About Ruth Sutton:
Ruth is a very independent person, which – like many things – is good up to a point, but can get tricky sometimes. She lives in a very beautiful place, but it’s a long way to a cinema, or a big supermarket, and if the time comes when she can’t or doesn’t want to drive, she’ll have to move as there’s no public transport. She qualifies for a bus pass, but there aren’t any buses. Her daughter and her family live quite close by, and she loves to see her two grandchildren. After decades on her own, she has a partner whom she loves. They each have their own house, 40 minutes apart, and this life style suits them both. Ruth wrote her first novel after she was 60.
In addition, Ruth has self-published a trilogy entitled Between the Mountains and the Sea; A Good Liar tells the story of Jessie who risks career and independence with a love affair, whilst her secret past draws ever closer. Forgiven is set among the coal mines and fells of the Cumberland coast. Jessie’s struggle for happiness continues. Fallout features the nuclear disaster at Windscale, which brings a compelling stranger into Jessie’s world.