Wildfire (by Susan Lewis)

Two and a half years ago, a friend lent me 'Just one more day', by Susan Lewis. It was her autobiography, written with some creative license; I found it moving, vivid, and thought it extremely well-written. Despite having never heard of the author before I put a few of her books on my wishlist, after reading reviews at Amazon, and was pleased to receive three of them for my recent birthday.

'Wildfire' is quite a long book - almost 600 pages - which combines some romantic threads with business wheelings and dealings, and includes quite a bit of suspense.

It's the story of Rhiannon who has a great boyfriend - Oliver - a great career in TV, and wonderful friends. Perhaps there are a few strange things going on with Oliver, who keeps losing his credit cards, and she hasn't really had enough time for her best friend Lizzy lately... but as the story starts, she's working on a programme in an African bush safari and life seems good.

Then things start to go wrong. We know from the prologue that someone is investigating Rhiannon and Oliver, although we don't know why. There are more and more odd things that happen, increasing the tension - and my curiosity to find out what was going on and who could be trusted - and although there's quite a big cast of characters, they were different enough that I didn't have much difficulty remembering who was who, even though I read just a chapter or two at night over about three weeks.

As with the autobiography, the writing was very good, drawing me into the story, making places and situations come vividly alive. There were a lot of subplots which wove together cleverly, all making some kind of sense in the end. There's some unpleasantness in the storylines, but not so much as to give me bad dreams.

Unfortunately, the book was badly let down by some highly explicit scenes. There was one which was at least relevant (though unnecessary to the story) of wildlife violence; worse than that were several 'bedroom' episodes with far too much intimate, often crude detail. I was particularly horrified by one early in the book that was entirely superfluous to the storyline, and made me feel slightly ill even though I skipped actually reading most of the detail once I realised what it was about. That one scene was so bad that I almost gave up reading the book. That section alone meant that I could neither recommend this to anyone, nor lend it to any of my friends.

It's a pity the author felt it necessary to put these scenes in - there were fewer later in the book, thankfully - because without them, I would have enjoyed it very much. I hope it's just a one-off in this book and that when I read the others I was given I won't find anything similar!

I do realise that some people don't mind explicit details, so am putting in the Amazon links as usual. It's already out of print in the USA, apparently.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th June 2011

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