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The Burning Air Paperback – 29 Aug 2013

129 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444728342
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444728347
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.5 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Erin Kelly is a freelance journalist and lives in North London with her family. The Poison Tree is her first novel.

Product Description


Kelly's most accomplished book to date . . . a gripping tale of secrets, revenge and obsession, masterfully done. (Guardian)

An author in total command of the tensions within dysfunctional families . . . Gripping all the way. (The Times)

Kelly excels at thrillers set in middle-England idylls, that sidestep the clichéd and the cosy to go for the jugular. [THE BURNING AIR] sees her reach another level. (Independent on Sunday)

Her narrative choreographs a succession of hints, twists and revelations with elegance and precision. The novel is beautifully written and the characters have a dreadful plausibility about them that engulfs you in their untidy lives. Like all the best psychological thrillers, this one leaves the reader feeling mildly traumatised - and hungry for the author's next book. (Spectator)

Expect dark secrets and a killer twist. So thrilling, this book will have you sleeping with the lights on. (Company)

Erin Kelly is a seriously good writer, and this gripping novel is her best yet. I really loved it - couldn't put it down! (Sophie Hannah)

It's not often I read a book where the twist is so surprising, I have to go back and work out how I missed it, but that's what happened here . . . Brilliant and heart-stopping (Woman)

Her new book is every bit as dark and intriguing as her previous novels (Bella)

Her creepiest and classiest yet (Elle)

Everything you want from a psychological thriller - elegant writing, clever plotting, shocking twists and a looming sense of menace . . . Erin Kelly just gets better and better with every book! (Good Housekeeping)

An atmospheric setting and an absolutely genius twist . . . Nothing is as it seems in this tense domestic drama, as fresh revelations uncover a maze of interconnected secrets. (Marie Claire)

Erin Kelly masterminds her most psychological thriller yet . . . has a twist so shocking you'll need a lie down (Grazia)

You'll be transfixed as you uncover the truth in this unputdownable novel (Easy Living)

A tense family drama that demands to be read in one sitting (Daily Record)

'You won't be able to get anything else done until you've finished it . . . completely compelling: just take the phone off the hook and cancel any plans you might have.' ***** (Heat)

'THE BURNING AIR is a classic of the psychological thriller genre and puts Kelly firmly in the same league as Ruth Rendell writing under her Barbara Vine pseudonym; both women showing a great gift for characterisation and a mastery of understanding human nature's twisted desires . . . I loved it . . . Erin Kelly puts a satisfying contemporary spin on her genre, showing a sympathy for all her characters, even the supposed 'baddies', and a love of a moral dilemma which could happen to any one of us. It is this realism, a hand-grenade thrown into uneventful and supposedly comfortable lives, which makes THE BURNING AIR such an involving read'. (Sunday Express)

A classic dark thriller combining suspense with gorgeous, evocative prose . . . With writing so seductive and multiple voices that are pitch-perfect for the characters she's created, Kelly shows that she is a writer who doesn't need to keep repeating herself to stay in the game. (Kirkus Reviews)

In a strong field, Kelly is among the strongest. Her formidable control of plot twist and character keep you gripped, unsure of the outcome, until the bitter end. (Alex Marwood, author of The Wicked Girls)

THE BURNING AIR is a clever, creepy exploration of the deceit hidden even within the most apparently loving of families and the very fine line between justice and revenge. Erin Kelly is brilliant at showing the relentlessness of obsession and the evil that can be done in the name of love. (Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner)

Written with empathy, psychological insight and a real feel for the menace and conflict at the heart of families, it's a superior example of its genre. (Big Issue)

A masterfully plotted dark tale of how a small injustice can have devastating consequences. I devoured it in one sitting. (Irish Independent)

Compelling: a macabre tale of motherhood and vengeance (Woman's Weekly)

Brilliant (InStyle)

If you were glued to ITV's recent psychological drama THE POISON TREE, get your nose in the author's latest spine-chiller, pronto . . . Family politics mixed with revenge make for a super-spooky read (Look)

Full of can't-bear-to-look intensity, this is a great, taut read (Red)

A skilfully woven web of revelations, showing how past mistakes come back to haunt the future . . . a chilling, atmospheric book that is almost impossible to put down. There is no-let up in the tension as we hurtle towards the shocking conclusion (Press Association)

Erin Kelly has produced another excellent psychological thriller in THE BURNING AIR. Dark, chilling and with nail biting twists, I read deep into the night, unable to put it down . . . A must read for all fans of the psychological thriller. (newbooks magazine)

Extremely clever... The writing is exemplary... If this was a film, it would be an Alfred Hitchcock great. (

Suspenseful and clever, this book, Erin Kelly's third, is her best so far. (Literary Review)

Gripping new thriller about family secrets and revenge. Perfect for getting spooked on dark January evenings in. (Top Sante)

Creepy and claustrophobic (Sunday Mirror)

Very cleverly written and full of unexpected twists as the tension keeps being ratcheted up another notch before the big reveal at the end . . . Deeply enjoyable but deeply unsettling: the perfect mixture for a psychological thriller! (Sun's Fabulous blog)

THE BURNING AIR once again highlights the originality of Erin Kelly's plot lines and her ability to build anticipation that, in my opinion, is rarely matched by other thriller/suspense writers. Her ability of taking something everyday and warping it into something dark and twisted, whilst effortlessly weaving sequences from all parts of the characters' lives is not something everyone can do . . . This book is a definite page turner that once picked up cannot be put down, with an inventive plot and characters that grab you and hold on tight whilst steering you through the subtle complexities. (

If you were a fan of Erin Kelly's first novel, THE POISON TREE, you'll love this. It's definitely her most psychological thriller yet and is the very essence of a page turner - we literally couldn't put it down . . . Obviously, it wouldn't be a thriller without a twist and this one was truly a shocker - it made us turn those pages even quicker so we could see exactly how it would all be resolved. A taut, yet extremely readable novel, this is the perfect companion for a cold winter's night! (

The constant action and suspense will ensure that your heart keeps pounding (Heat)

Book Description

Compelling psychological suspense from Erin Kelly, author of THE POISON TREE and THE SICK ROSE.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JM VINE VOICE on 26 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
I've had a run of boring books over the last few weeks so was relieved to read this one which kept me gripped.
A family gathers at a remote house for Bonfire Night: Rowan, the recently widowed father, and his daughters Sophie and Tara, and his son Felix, and their partners and children. In their midst a stranger, Felix's new girlfriend. When she disappears with Sophie's baby, the family are launched into a a terrifying situation with its roots deep in the past.
The book then moves back several years to a new thread about an odd child named Darcy, and his obssessive mother. This sets the scene for what comes to follow, and the book becomes even more gripping from this point, particularly from the time of a shocking revelation about halfway through.
The story is told from the points of view of various characters and this works really well. It is a tense and menacing read, the plot is probably fairly unlikely but then it's fiction so who cares?
I'd read Erin Kelly's first book which I enjoyed but this is much better, a really good read which keeps you desperate to turn the pages, and I look forward to her next.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Cymbaline on 10 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story focuses on the McBride family, a close knit clan who prize education and justice highly, not least because the Mother and Father of the family are a magistrate and a headteacher respectively. We begin the book with the death of the beloved family matriarch, Lydia, and learn she has a secret she took to her grave, a secret that if revealed would have dire consequences. Fast forward a year and we see the family on their first gathering since her death and the son of the family has brought along his beautiful and enigmatic girlfriend, Kerry. The gathering gets off to a rocky start and bad turns to worse when Kerry disappears along with the baby of the oldest McBride daughter.

The plot is silly, there is a "twist" and the whole thing just get more ridiculous with each plot point. Of course the main events of the book happen in a place with no mobile phone reception and the key witness lacks credibility and the whole thing relies on bizarre coincidences and the stupidity of our main cast of characters. I didn't think much of the reveal of Lydias wrongdoing, yes it had terrible consequences but once again those consequences relied so heavily on ridiculous coincidences that I felt let down.

One dimensional doesn't begin to describe the weakness of the characterisation, all but one of the characters seem to exist on either end of a moral scale of good and evil and when their actions deviate from these positions it seems completely out of character rather than any sort of nuance. I found Lydia especially(whose voice we hear through flash backs, letters and diaries) to be mind numbingly dull, smug and arrogant and not in the least bit sympathetic. We are constantly reminded that Lydia loves her kids and her kids love her... well... err... isn't that the norm?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. A. E. Stoker on 24 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved both of Erin's previous books and enjoyed this one just as much. She has such strong descriptive skills that I found it hard to keep my heart rate down during the frantic scenes. Her characters can been seen as unlikeable which, to me, creates a stronger narrative, due to them well drawn. A fab book, best read in one afternoon with a pot of tea!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was my bonfire night read, and was a firecracker of a book. It begins with a quote from The Inspector Calls “but Inspector, he’s just a boy!” and what this refers to only becomes clear in the midsection of the story. The story is told from the perception of a number of different characters, some in the first person where we hear their unique voices and motives with immediacy. The third person accounts, whilst still focusing on an individual’s point of view, feel more detached, more observed from the outside. This gives contrast with the first person narrative and gives a variety of angles to view from.

The story focuses around the extended McBride family with grandparents, adult children, their partners and offspring. They have gathered together at the family's holiday retreat in Devon as they do every year to celebrate Bonfire Night, attend the Tar Barrels festival, and this year, to scatter the ashes of their mother Lydia. The story starts with an excerpt from her diary as she finds out she is terminally ill, and this hints at a deep secret about something she has done in the past that would destroy the family if it is revealed. And the family is a privileged one, very fortunate, very spoiled which shapes their characters and lends a certain smugness to each of them.

The imagery of burning and bonfires are relevant not only to the time of the year in which the action takes place, but because this festival is steeped in tradition, hence the family gathering each year. As well as being a means of celebration and providing warmth, fire is also a force for destruction and this links well with the aim of complete obliteration of the family which lies at the heart of the story.
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By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lydia opens her diary, picks up her pen and prepares to commit her sins to its pages. Overwhelmed by her illness she finishes her entry by stating `A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.' These words underpin the rest of one of the darkest stories I have read.

Set over a weekend from 1st to 3rd November 2013 Lydia's family get together at Far Barn in Saxby Devon to spread her ashes. Lydia's husband Rowan, her adult children Sophie, Tara and Felix gather together along with an assortment of partners and offspring. Without a television or mobile signal and only a tape deck and record player for music being at Far Barn is like going back in time and that is without the family memories of former holidays. The scene is set for a claustrophobic weekend where the consequences of the past make themselves known. When Felix's new girlfriend disappears with Sophie's baby on bonfire night the secrets of the past come tumbling out with each character having a part to play in this well-crafted story.

This was a riveting read with carefully presented twists along the way. Erin Kelly showcases her talents as a master of plotting. The characters that inhabit the pages of this book were distinct and when revelations were made about them these assimilated with previous knowledge with no jarring at all.

This is right up there as one of the best books I have read this year; I'd go as far as to say Barbara Vine has a worthy rival.
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