Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 August 2022 p/back from Penguin. Out now in e-book
My thanks to Random Things Tours and Penguin for an advance copy for review purposes
As the house burns, the hunt for a killer begins…
In the dead of night someone starts a fire in a home for underprivileged children in Aberdeen. The flames spread quickly, and one person doesn’t make it out alive.
But the victim wasn’t found in their bedroom; they were discovered locked inside a secret basement underground. As DI Eve Hunter and her team search the blackened ruins, the case takes them into even darker territory.
Soon Eve unearths a horrific discovery at the heart of the property – one that turns the whole investigation on its head. Everyone in this home has something to hide, but who has a secret worth killing for?
I enjoy Deborah Masson’s D.I. Eve Hunter series. With each book you learn a little more about Eve’s team and the focus this time is on D.C. Scott Ferguson. This time the Aberdeen based D.I. Hunter is faced with a truly awful crime.
A child is dead and the cause of that death is wilful arson. Someone has set fire to a Wellwood, a privately run Children’s Home and now 11 year old Lucas Fyfe is dead – found in a disused basement where he had no reason to be.
Wellwood’s owner, Stephen Alderton is distraught but as Eve and her team dig into the home and those who live and work in it, it seems that Alderton is just one of many hiding things from the Police.
The children, too have secrets; secrets that they have sworn to each other they won’t reveal, but as Eve Hunter and her team dig deeper into this case, they face a shocking discovery that is even more horrifying than finding Lucas Fyfe’s body.
DC Scott Ferguson is on his way into work when he witnesses a bad road accident in which a teenage boy is knocked down, suffering severe injury. The boy can barely speak when Ferguson reaches him, but he implores Scott to stay with him and Scott feels compelled to do so. This boy has triggered something in Ferguson and he is driven to find out more about the lad, leaving his team mates in the lurch as he prioritises this case above the work that Eve Hunter has assigned to the team.
Though she does her best, DS Jo Mearns can’t cover for Ferguson indefinitely and soon he is putting his job on the line as he openly defies her authority and makes some bad judgement calls in so doing.
Eve and her team are under huge media scrutiny and it appears that there’s one journalist who is better at getting to the facts before the Police which isn’t helping Turner’s boss to invest confidence in her or her team.
The more they investigate his case, the more it seems that the answers lie in the past and the secrets that lie buried will soon rise from the ashes. It’s a heart-rending story that echoes only too well some of the terrible stories that we have heard about residential children’s homes and what can happen in them behind closed doors where the most vulnerable have no-one to look out for their interests.
Masson sets this gritty book a lively pace which is kept up throughout. Her characters feel authentic and there’s a credible team dynamic that works really well. The inter-connecting plot, told through three characters moves from past to present. It is neatly put together and the storyline well-researched.
From the Ashes is a sometimes traumatic read but it also offers a serious look at the long term impact of neglect and abuse on children’s lives and the way that can follow them through to adulthood. By utilising the character of D.S. Scott Ferguson to offer a different angle, Masson shows us that not all crime is inevitable.
Verdict: Though I had a good inkling of what and who, this did not affect my enjoyment of a book that has a number of surprises, a deal of tension and excellent characterisation.
Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city’s freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie – to name but a few. Through it all, she always read crime fiction and, when motherhood finally settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy, where she wrote her award-winning debut novel Hold Your Tongue, first in the DI Eve Hunter series. Since then she has published two more books in the series, Out For Blood and From the Ashes.