Bonfire Memories (by Sally Quilford)

I've had an online acquaintanceship with Sally Quilford for a few years now. She's quite a prolific writer, mostly of novellas in various genres, which she makes available inexpensively for the Kindle. She offered several of them free for download briefly a few months ago, so I leapt at the opportunity.

'Bonfire Memories' is part of the crime fiction series set in the fictional town of Midchester.  I'm not a huge fan of crime fiction in general, although I enjoy the occasional Agatha Christie, but Sally's books have a light touch and romantic themes running through them.  I had previously read and enjoyed another of this series - 'True Love Ways' - so was looking forward to this.

At the start of the book, someone - we don’t learn their name until nearly the end of the book - is waiting in a pub in Midchester in 1946. A young woman walks in, and the two speak briefly in their own tongue - evidently German - and arrange to meet elsewhere. Clearly they have been lovers... perhaps they will be again. But there’s something very chilling about this introduction.

The narrative then leaps forward twenty years, and we meet Guy Sullivan. He's a film star who is staying in Midchester to have a break. An eager young journalist called Cara arrives to interview him, and he gives the kind of answers he thinks her readers will like, while evidently keeping a great deal secret. He’s surprised to find that he’s quite attracted to Cara, since he’s not a fan of journalists in general.

The story continues, switching between the two viewpoints, with the majority of the action taking place in 1966. Cara is supposed to be organising the village bonfire for Guy Fawkes’ Day, but has never much liked the celebration; gradually an unpleasant memory from her past surfaces, when the first murder takes place in the village... and then everyone is under suspicion.

There were a few more shocks than I'm totally comfortable with, but nothing really gory, and slightly to my surprise I found myself liking this book very much. There’s a gentle ongoing romance blossoming, albeit a little predictable, which takes the edge of the crime. There are also several past secrets unfolding, which are evidently connected somehow with the increasingly nasty voice from 1946 which joins the narrative every so often in Italic font, making it easy to spot.

Perhaps the main plot was a little far-fetched, but it was all extremely cleverly written, with different storylines unfolding together and the past and present coming together subtly. There were hints as to the possible identity of the voice from the past, but it took me a long time to figure out who it was - and although I was thinking along the right lines by the time the name was revealed, I had not latched onto the right person.

The writing is crisp, and while this is a short book (a novella rather than a novel) which does not give time for much depth of characterisation, I found myself liking Cara very much, and was quite keen on Guy too. I was also pleased to see some references to the local Vicar and his wife Meredith, who featured in 'True Love Ways'.  I look forward to reading more in this series in the future.

Definitely recommended if you have a Kindle.

Review copyright suesbookreviews, March 2013

1 comment:

Sally Quilford said...

Thank you, as ever, Sue, for your intelligent and thoughtful review(s) of my book(s). They're always a joy to read (your reviews, I mean!)