Category Archives: Russ Thomas

Review: Firewatching by Russ Thomas

Title: Firewatching by Russ Thomas
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 365 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A taut and ambitious police procedural debut introducing Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler, a cold case reviewer who lands a high-profile murder investigation, only to find the main suspect is his recent one-night stand . . .

When financier Gerald Cartwright disappeared from his home six years ago, it was assumed he’d gone on the run from his creditors. But then a skeleton is found bricked up in the cellar of Cartwright’s burned-out mansion, and it becomes clear Gerald never left alive.

As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is not expected to get results, but he knows this is the case that might finally kick start his floundering career. Luckily, he already has a suspect. Unluckily, that suspect is Cartwright’s son, the man Tyler slept with the night before.

Keeping his possible conflict-of-interest under wraps, Tyler digs into the case alongside Amina Rabbani, an ambitious young Muslim constable and a fellow outsider seeking to prove herself on the force. Soon their investigation will come up against close-lipped townsfolk, an elderly woman with dementia who’s receiving mysterious threats referencing a past she can’t remember, and an escalating series of conflagrations set by a troubled soul intent on watching the world burn . . .


Firewatching  by Russ Thomas is a mesmerizing mystery with a clever storyline and brilliantly developed characters.

Openly gay, Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is a bit of a loner who works cold cases.  At his boss’s urging, he is attempting to be more be more friendly, so he reluctantly accepts his friend Sally-Ann’s invitation to join her and her mates at a local pub.  He is definitely out of his element so Sally-Ann encourages him to get to know the young man at the bar who is clearly interested in Adam.  Not one for relationships, Adam is not looking for a repeat of their night together.

Reporting to work the next day, Adam learns the Criminal Investigation Division has been called to the scene where workers have discovered a body in the wall of a cellar during a renovation.  The house belongs to local Gerald Cartwright who went missing six years earlier. Adam persuades his boss to let him work the case and Detective Inspector Jim Doggett reluctantly agrees. Tyler’s excitement soon turns to dismay when he discovers his one night stand is Gerald’s son Oscar. Although he knows he should reveal his connection to Oscar, Adam instead convinces himself to keep quiet in order to remain on the case.

The small town of Sheffield is abuzz over the news Gerald’s remains have been unearthed. But Gerald’s neighbors Lily Bainbridge and Edna Burnside are not exactly curious about the investigation. They raised Oscar both before and after his father vanished so they are delighted to seen Oscar again.

Lily is quite upset since she has been receiving distressing letters and she is determined to figure out why someone is targeting her. Edna is in ill health and she is worried about how Lily will get on by herself. She counsels Lily to stay away from the investigation, but will she heed her advice?

Not long after Gerald’s remains have been found, someone begins setting mysterious fires around town. Fire Inspector Paul Enfield thinks there is a connection between the arson and grisly discovery. Doggett is not keen on the idea but Adam believes Paul  might be right. Years earlier, someone set a fire at the Cartwright home and Adam is also troubled by a painting found at the scene.

Adam has also enlisted Constable Amina “Mina” Rabbin to work on the investigation. They painstakingly interview Gerald’s neighbors and friends but they are frustrated at their lack of new information. While Mina lacks confidence due to her lack of experience, she has great instincts. She uncovers pivotal information, but wanting to prove herself, Mina puts herself in a very dangerous situation.

Firewatching is a well-written and engaging mystery but the pacing is sometimes a little slow.  Adam is a fascinating character with a very intriguing backstory. The secondary cast of characters is well-developed and easy to like.  The investigation is a bit of a slow burner but a viable pool of suspects gradually emerge.  With stunning twists and brilliant turns, Russ Thomas brings this outstanding mystery to a nail-biting, edge of the seat conclusion. An impressive debut that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of British police procedurals.  Hope to see more of Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler in future novels.

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Filed under Contemporary, Firewatching, GP Putnams Sons, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Russ Thomas, Suspense