A few weeks ago, I told you that when I met some of my fellow local authors, I bought two of their novels. This week, I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing the second: Embers, by Philip Soletsky. His hero, Jack Fallon, is a volunteer firefighter in a tiny town in south New Hampshire with a sharp wit and a keen sense of moral duty, both of which serve him well when mystery rears its head. As always, this is a thoroughly unsolicited review, and I'm not making a cent off of it. So, without further ado ...
Jack is still learning the ropes of being a volunteer firefighter when a routine house fire leads him to discover something unheard of in his small hometown: murder. A young woman is found dead, handcuffed to her bed in the middle of the blaze, which was a clear case of arson. Disturbed and rendered insomniac by the turn of events, Jack takes it upon himself to try to solve the mystery of the woman's killer: much to the distaste of the town sheriff and the concern of his wife. When the death count starts rising and getting closer and closer to home, Jack has to find the answers, before he becomes another statistic, himself.
I have to start off by saying that I always enjoy a good mystery, and I knew from the outset of the house fire that I'd found one. Soletsky wastes no time in setting up his main character's personality and stakes, then hooks us in with a unique series of questions. When Jack decided to solve the case himself, I was afraid that the novel would devolve into a stock plot, but Embers does what a good mystery should do: it takes the dress-form of the "vigilante detective" trope and tailors something around it to turn it into a new, exciting, interesting piece. I don't dare spoil things: you'll want to read this one for yourself.
Soletsky is a volunteer like Jack, himself, and he uses his knowledge well, scattering tiny details throughout the prose like controlled flame . It serves to brighten the novel and make it a lush read: rather than flattening us constantly with fire-related detail in a blanket fire. There are a few instances where it is clear that the author is using details because he knows them, but they are spaced out enough that they do not detract from the story ... and for a first novel, that's a pretty small mark in the minus column, with a great deal of marks in the plus. Jack's memories and stories about his first year of volunteering, as well as the tales of his colleagues, serve as a good way to bookend the action and give readers some setting knowledge without ramming it down our throats.
I must admit that my favorite part of the novel was the scene where Jack and the Sheriff come to terms with one another: again, I do not want to give anything away, but it was a unique take on a plot point which needed to be hit for the story to continue. Every single character in the novel is so very human and individual that I feel as though I could walk into one of the little diners around town and see them lined up at the counter with their coffee mugs, chatting over breakfast.
I was sad to leave the town of Dunboro behind when the story was through, but I know I'll be returning again as soon as I can get hold of a copy of A Hard Rain (which has an excerpt at the end, and has already hooked me in). This humble reviewer can only hope that she has a reader or two who is as enthusiastic about returning to Aviario as I am about Jack Fallon's Dunboro.
You can buy Embers and the rest of Philip Soletsky's novels on Amazon, here. He is also on Goodreads.
Please stay tuned for next week ... I'm not sure what I'll have in store for you just yet, but I promise it'll be fun! Until next week, I remain your hostess,
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