Hello! After a bit of a break, I’m back with my first ever blog tour post. Thanks to Damp Pebbles, Fahrenheit Press and Ruth Sutton for letting me be part of it.
What’s it about?
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?
I think the first thing to say about this book is what an amazing sense of place and time Ruth Sutton conveys. There’s a real affection for Cumbria and its people that comes across right from the start. With minimal spoilers, I particularly liked the hair salon and how it seemed to be the focal point of the community. That’s the word that’s really key to this book: community. When Helen disappears, it’s the community that responds. It was also really interesting to see the effect of Foot and Mouth disease on this group of people from the inside.
I’m from rural Yorkshire and I remember the effect of F&M on our local farmers. I found it fascinating to see how it played out in Cumbria, which by all accounts is more dispersed and remote than my patch of the Dales. It added another layer of tension to what was already quite a tense plot; the livelihoods of many of the central characters are falling apart and so everyone is on edge.
In terms of the actual plot, I found how Sutton constructed it quite interesting. Again, no spoilers here, but it’s a story of two sides and those mirror and play against each other very well. I found myself willing the police on at some points, before reminding myself it was fiction! I would’ve liked more from Rose; I found her fascinating but underused. The dynamics of that mother-daughter relationship against the backdrop of F&M and everything else happening in Cumbria were compelling and quite unusual.
I hadn’t heard of Ruth Sutton before this blog tour and I’d like to read more from her. It’s so refreshing to read a crime novel that isn’t set in a large city, too!
Would I recommend it?
Yes, especially if you’re looking for something different.
Burning Secrets by Ruth Sutton is published by Fahrenheit Press priced £8.95.