Author: Helene Young
I’ve said it before and I really do feel like I have to begin this review by saying it again. I am not sure I timed the reading of this novel as well as I could have. Yesterday saw me arrive home after 4 weeks in Canberra with my family. I happened to be there for the 10 year anniversary of the horrific bushfires that decimated two suburbs, while there were 140 bushfires raging and we weren’t sure whether we were going to find ourselves stranded and unable to come home. The timing certainly made the reality of bushfires and the prologue more vivid.
Burning Lies is my introduction to Helene Young so I have only just discovered that this is loosely linked to Young’s previous two novels Shattered Sky and Wings of Fear; which means I can quite confidently say this book works perfectly as a stand alone novel.
The prologue takes place in the midst of devastating Canberra bushfires, it wasn’t until I read the Author’s Note at the back that I discovered they were not the tragic fires of 2003. After Kaitlyn Scott loses it all in the deliberately lit fires she relocates to far north Queensland to build a new life, with a clean slate, for her young son and for her mother.
Kaitlyn loses her house, her father and her husband in the fire but she also loses faith when her husband is accused of lighting the fires. All of the evidence points to him but Kaitlyn is still not completely convinced, though she has no theories of her own to offer. The stigma is too much to bear so the best thing she can do for her young son Daniel is give him a clean slate far from the burnt ruins of their lives, so she reverts to her maiden name and relocates to the Atherton Tablelands.
Five years after the Canberra fires Kaitlyn is working for Border Watch and is a volunteer with the Rural Fire Service, and the Atherton Tablelands is suffering through an extremely large volume of bushfires. No-one will come straight out and say it but there is a lot of speculation around that there are way too many fires so there has to be an arsonist at work in the area. The Federal Police agree and Ryan O’Donnell, hunky undercover policeman just out of a rough stint with an outlaw bikie gang, is sent in to investigate.
The suspense grabbed me very early on because it seemed that the more information we were given about the characters the more questions were raised and I could never quite make it to a conclusion, which was helped along by the fact that the main characters were jumping to wild conclusions of their own.
Ryan O’Donnell joins the Atherton Tablelands community as Bradley Ryan, Sydney firefighter on stress leave. Ryan has been in and out of undercover assignments for so long that he feels he has lost the real Ryan. He is juggling multiple phones, multiple identities and trying to remain out of the firing line of fallout from his last assignment; all very good reasons not to form any kind of real attachment with people you come across while undercover.
Kaitlyn and Ryan are both damaged characters who I couldn’t help but feel for. The chemistry between the pair was apparent from very early on and you could see that the baggage each carried meant there was going to be heartache before there could be a happily ever after but that was the track they were on.
Romance definitely takes a backseat to suspense in Burning Lies though it is everpresent in the interactions between Kaitlyn and Ryan as they both grow and heal the scars of the past.
It is the hunt for the arsonist that will grip you as the web grows more tangled and the net tightens, but can they put a stop to the fires before everything’s lost.
Helene Young’s storytelling is exciting and intriguing while it tugs at the heartstrings and has you cheering the heroes on to a happily ever after you really feel they deserve. I can’t wait to read more from this talented Australian author.