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A Lovely Way to Burn (Plague Times Trilogy) Hardcover – 27 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (27 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848546513
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848546516
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.3 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


An unusual and fascinating take on a crime novel from the established and endlessly inventive Louise Welsh . . . With a strong central character and vivid depictions of the disorder that accompanies social breakdown, it's a gripping book that prepares the way nicely for the next volume (Guardian)

I was with Louise Welsh's gutsy gripping heroine Stevie Flint every terrifying step of the way (Kirsty Wark, author of The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle)

I read it in two sittings, pausing only to sleep and dream about it. Gripping, perfectly paced and beautifully written (Erin Kelly, author of The Poison Tree)

We've come to expect lots of good things from Welsh, including a brilliant sense of location. She doesn't disappoint with her images of London breaking down. As ever, the writing is fluid, the dynamic taut and through the control of such small telling moments, Welsh deftly breathes life into her characters. Only an accomplished writer knows exactly when to let the reader fill in the gaps. Stevie is a gusty, gripping protagonist, beautifully drawn . . . Welsh has taken our everyday lives, given them a twist, and no supernatural manifestation of our darkest hours is any match for what real human beings can do to each other when mankind loses its humanity. This is just first part of a trilogy. Scary, shocking and touching by turns, this apocalyptic thriller will enthral. I haven't been so buried in a book in a while (Irish Independent)

A terrifying journey into the possible, this is dystopia for today. Feral, frightening and fascinating, A Lovely Way to Burn gripped and chilled me in equal measure (Val McDermid)

Welsh's potent take on the psychological thriller - her stupendous debut The Cutting Room - works by allowing a quietly menacing mood to hum beneath the most ordinary scenes. The writer she reminds me of most is Ian McEwan: both specialise in secrets, rather chilly sexuality, sudden reversals of fortune, and uneasy intimations of doom . . . A Lovely Way to Burn is superb popular fiction - a box-set waiting to happen. Roll on part two (Independent on Sunday)

The London of the novel at once recalls sci-fi dystopia, Dante's Inferno and accounts of the 1665 great plague . . . Welsh's plot is ably handled . . . She has in Stevie . . . an engaging, stroppy heroine for the trilogy this novel launches (Sunday Times)

This is a novel rich in the kind of iridescent word painting that has long been Welsh's speciality, and the vulnerable, often maladroit Stevie is a wonderful protagonist . . . readers will be impatient for the second in the trilogy (Independent)

The first in a trilogy, and it should be huge (Bookseller)

Welsh skilfully presents London, initially as it is now, but rapidly descending into a plague-gripped dystopia . . . I appreciate a book that affects me . . . the relentlessly taut suspense of A Lovely Way to Burn still lingers on my psyche. Such an apocalyptic crisis does not seem improbable and here's hoping freakishly foul weather and tube trikes are not an omen of things to come (Stylist)

Welsh constructs an intelligent mystery within the pages of A Lovely Way to Burn . . . It's close enough to what we know to be utterly terrifying and that was part of its hold on me. Welsh has taken our everyday lives, given them a twist, and put them in the background of an intriguing, addictive novel (Girlreporter)

Louise Welsh writes elegantly and has visualised London in extremis with immense and detailed clarity. It is all very exciting, and there are two more volumes to come (Literary Review)

[Louise] Welsh develops a fantastically written mystery which keeps you hanging on to every word. She creates excelling imagery of the struggle Stevie faces . . . A must read, which will leave you dreaming - or having nightmares - of apocalyptic London for weeks (Irish Examiner)

I've felt for a while that we are in the mood for an intelligent slice of London-based dystopia, and I think Louise Welsh has cracked it with A Lovely Way to Burn . . . it kept me up all night nervously turning the pages (Cathy Rentzenbrink, Bookseller)

The book isn't out until the 20th March but a mixture of Welsh's writing style and the subject matter made it impossible to resist (Crimepieces)

This is can't put down good (Candis)

You know you're in for a seriously chilling read in this apocalyptic thriller when three very unlikely killers - an MP, a hedge fund manager and a vicar - go on a murderous rampage in the sweltering capital (Marie Claire)

A brilliantly imaginative mix of mystery and apocalypse . . . perfect pacing and [a] wonderfully compelling main protagonist . . . top notch descriptive prose . . . I almost guarantee that this one will leave you with haunted dreams and a slight sense of imbalance . . . brilliantly written, superbly described. There are two more novels to come and I for one cannot wait! (Liz Loves Books)

A taut thriller so involving that I missed my bus stop! (Woman & Home)

There are no daughters, no sisters, no mothers in this darkening world; as the city turns to chaos, men roam the streets and women become invisible. This comment on what catastrophe may actually do to society makes Welsh's take on the dystopia less conservative and Wells-like, recalling instead writers such as Doris Lessing or Margaret Atwood. The pace and thriller-style of the narrative pitch her tale towards the commercial end of the market but her lone female in a world dominated by men gives it the subversive edge of a more literary work (Scotland on Sunday)

Gripping new dystopian thriller . . . Welsh has already proven her prowess as a controlling mistress of creepily suspenseful fiction with acclaimed chillers such as The Cutting Room and The Girl on the Stairs. This is an ambitious departure, being the first in a proposed Plague Times trilogy. It succeeds on several counts. It is a propulsive read, written in lean sentences and snappy cliffhanging chapters . . . Most impressive of all is the Scottish writer's evocation of a London that, with a Dickensian swagger, emerges as a pulsating untameable beast in its own right (Metro)

Welsh weaves thoughtful, emotional themes into a thriller plot - and does it very well . . . A Lovely Way to Burn is the first in a promised trilogy, and if Welsh can keep up the quality of writing and create an effective arc, future writers of apocalypse may indeed turn to her to see how it's done (Killing Time Crime)

The descriptions of London and society unravelling into chaos are utterly compelling and scarily realistic . . . Great if you like tense thrillers - and as it's the first in a series called The Plague Times Trilogy, it bodes well for the next two (Heat)

If you're looking for a novel that communicates thrills and paranoia to the extent that you forget anywhere else you're meant to be until you finish, look no further. I should add a caveat thought: you'll never again listen to a news item about a drug resistant 'super bug' without shivering, and that's even before Book 2 hits the bookshops. So, are you feeling brave? (Bookbag)

A chilling chronicle of an unravelling society and a true testament to an author at the height of her powers. Next instalments can't come soon enough (Upcoming4me)

A brilliantly imaginative thriller with a compelling heroine and well-paced plot that keeps the tension high (Hello)

A Lovely Way To Burn once more proves that there are few writers who can unsettle as Louise Welsh does (Scotswhayhae)

This is the first in a trilogy from the award-winning short-story and thriller writer; a scary vision of London falling apart that's addictively readable (Saga)

Chilling (Heat)

[A] pacy murder mystery . . . [Louise Welsh's] plague is plausible and chilling. In a city of desperate people, even the most benign places become fraught with danger, and every step of Stevie's amateur investigation is palpably tense (List)

A thrillingly dystopian mystery . . . It's a fine setup, and Stevie is a strong character, a forthright blend of sales sass and reporter brass. Welsh is particularly good at describing the institutional and social disorder that accompanies the outbreak of the sweats (Guardian)

Suspenseful and intelligent dystopian fiction. Welsh writes snappily and with filmic precision . . . Her setting, vivid and initially familiar, grows increasingly alien as the crisis worsens. Welsh knows exactly how to build tension and momentum as her lone hero presses on with her quest. She also knows how to create a memorably sinister world in which nothing and no one is solid, and the shreds of comfort that remain are intangible or inanimate (Sunday Business Post)

Louise Welsh delivers an absolute cracker of a crime thriller set against the backdrop of a country in the grip of a frightening plague . . . Welsh's picture of a rapidly-disintegrating society stands comparison of some of the best in this field, including John Wyndham's timeless classic, The Day of the Triffids, and the fact that A Lovely Way to Burn is the first in a trilogy set in the Plague Times is, for me and other disaster fans, very good news indeed (crimereview.co.uk)

Louise Welsh rarely repeats herself, a quality to celebrate in a crime novelist. A Lovely Way to Burn is a dystopian thriller set in an all-too-plausible version of contemporary London. Welsh puts her own distinctive mark on it . . . this intelligent thriller creates an alarmingly convincing picture of London on the brink of disintegration; it reminds us how fragile we are (Andrew Taylor, The Spectator)

Welsh plays brilliantly on our worst fears, and the pace never lets up. Seriously scary (The Times)

Book Description

The first book in a thrilling new crime trilogy from the author of The Girl on the Stairs.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Mar 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Stephanie (Stevie) Flint lives in London, where she works for a TV shopping channel and has recently started dating Dr Simon Sharkey. When he stands her up she is not particularly upset, but, after a few days, decides to visit his flat and remove the few things she has left there. What she finds is his dead body and, although it seems that he died naturally, she is not convinced. However, then Stevie suddenly becomes ill and spends several days in her flat before she recovers. Once she is able to rejoin the world, she finds it has changed forever – a pandemic is sweeping the globe and panic is everywhere. In London, the illness is known as “the Sweats” and it seems that Stevie has both caught, and recovered, from it. She is then visited by Simon’s cousin, and finds that he has left something for her which may have got him killed and put her in danger.

This entertaining novel is part a mystery, concerning Stevie’s investigation into Simon’s death and part thriller, which is the story of the pandemic. The author builds the tension well - the sickness begins with Stevie sitting next to someone ill on the tube and ends with a major crisis; curfews, unrest on the streets, abandoned cars and people dying all around her. In fact, there is so much death that even the police are not interested in the possible murder of Simon. What secrets has he left behind and will they get Stevie killed, even if the Sweats failed to end her life? Her investigation will take her through her boyfriend’s childhood, personal life and scandals in medical research, in a bid to discover the truth.

The pandemic storyline worked for me slightly better than Stevie’s desire to find out why Simon had been killed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kirsty VINE VOICE on 17 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've never read any of Louise Welsh's other works before but I've heard great things about her previously, so I was hugely disappointed than I didn't like this one!

To be honest it read almost like a TV episode or a movie rather than book. It seemed like it was rushing from one action scene to another, and just didn't flow properly.

The were two aspects of this book, one was a murder mystery and the other was a survivalist thriller. Both seemed completely separate, and they didn't work as one cohesive plot to seamlessly take me from start to finish. It just felt awkward, disjointed and almost like two different books.

I didn't really gel with the main character Stevie, and found her actions/ reactions quite annoying, not to mention the cringe worthy "romance" half way through that was just unnecessary and stuck out like a sore thumb.

Honestly, A Lovely Way to Burn is rather forgettable. There were no redeeming qualities that stick out in my mind, and if you were to ask me questions about it in a few months, all I'll be able to say it that I expected more from it and I won't be picking up the next two books.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By N. Parker on 25 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first book I've read by Louise Welsh and I was a little disappointed, given her reputation for writing 'literary' thrillers. The characters are mostly just sketched out caricatures, with the exception of Stevie Flint - and even she feels like a fleshed-out caricature rather than a real person. It's difficult to understand Stevie's motivation for pursuing her boyfriend's killer - why would anyone do this when people are dying of plague-like symptoms all around them? Yes, the book is an entertaining page-turner, but it's one I'll pass to a charity shop.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Frankie10 on 15 Jun 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having read other reviews, I was expecting a taut, fast paced thriller, but unfortunately the opposite was true. The strory takes place against the backdrop of a mysterious disease, that seemingly goes from zero to killing most of the population in a matter of days, but which has little relevance to the storyline beyond facilitating a couple of heavy handed gothic set pieces. The characters, including the heroine, are one dimensional and unengaging and the plot, not only stretches credibility well beyond breaking point, but is scattered throughout with some of the most dreadful similies and metaphors I have ever come across - someone moving with difficulty is compared with a 'pearl diver labouring against the tide' and unnecessary adjectives are thrown around like confetti. All of this might have been forgivable if it was a good story, but a quarter of the way through the book I was already looking forward to finishing it and moving on to something else. My strong advice would be to give it a miss and read something by John Grisham instead.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. B. Kelly VINE VOICE on 3 Mar 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Not many novels open with shooting sprees by a Tory MP, a hedge-fund manager and a vicar in Ealing, of all places (my home town); each spree ends with suicide so there aren’t even any answers to the big WHY? It’s an arresting opening for the first part of Louise Welsh’s dystopian trilogy.

London. The very near future. Stevie, a young woman of thirty, is stood up by Simon, her boyfriend of four months, one evening. She doesn’t mind that much, concluding that the relationship had pretty much run its course. Only Simon has the best excuse possible: he’s dead. Everywhere in London -- in the streets and shops, bar and tube train -- people are coughing hard, in the early stages of a pandemic virus that kills almost everyone it infects.

As Stevie tries to find out who killed Simon and why, civilisation is collapsing around her as the emergency services are struck down by the new plague. In this first volume of a trilogy, loose ends are inevitably left untied and I, for one, am looking forward to the next instalment.

Is there some element of metaphor here for the madness of huge cities and of modern life, where millions of us live on top of each other in a barely suppressed madness?

I suppose the novel ought to be gloomy but I didn’t find it so. Welsh is a fine prose stylist and Stevie a memorable hero -- an ordinary young woman plunged into crisis and rising to the occasion devoid of self pity.
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