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After the Fire Hardcover – 19 Mar 2009
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The plot is wonderful, the characterisation of a family in crisis is both sharp and sympathetic, and the author does not shy away from examining the less palatable aspects of relations between the police and the public. (Guardian)
'Bigger than the sum of its parts, and transcending its thriller label, this is a canvas of human nature . . . of love and loss and heartbreak and how ordinary people recover after the fire. If you can contain all this in one novel, and contain it well, that'll be what makes it so good.' (Scotland on Sunday)
Both a gripping thriller and a moving psychological study, AFTER THE FIRE shows Campbell, herself a former police officer, to be a writer of immense talent and emotional power, and on the brink of huge success. (Daily Express)
The characters from Campbell's blistering debut THE TWILIGHT TIME return and they bring with them the sharp, perceptive prose and meticulous attention to detail that are fast establishing the author as a literary force to be reckoned with. (Daily Record)
'Looks set to cement her reputation . . . she handles this topical and gripping tale with expert skill.' (News of the World)
Raw, real and so evocative you can almost hear the screams. Bang those drums and get the word out... if this debut is a true reflection of her talent then she's going to be huge. (Daily Record)
A cracking plot. (Daily Mail)
Campbell's debut is a rare example of a crime novel which, in the energy of the writing and finely observed detail, transcends genre limitations. (The List on THE TWILIGHT TIME)
powered by stiletto-sharp prose... a pertinent expose of the contamination seeping into lives from prostitution and a drugs economy ruled by money-laundering thugs. But against this background, her story also vividly illustrates the physical and emotional damage caused to police officers by the vile reality of their work. (The Herald on THE TWILIGHT TIME)
I loved it.. Anna is a great, original character and Karen Campbell has a great way with images. (Kate Atkinson on THE TWILIGHT TIME)
..enough pace and atmosphere to give the likes of Denise Mina a run for their money. (Mark Billingham on THE TWILIGHT TIME)
'..enough pace and atmosphere to give the likes of Denise Mina a run for their money.' - Mark Billingham on THE TWILIGHT TIMESee all Product description
Top customer reviews
Jamie himself is a policeman in prison, which I don't think is a perspective that I have read in a novel before, and this was an incredibly interesting storyline for me. Not only seeing how prisons run and the state of them but how someone who might have put some of his cell mates in jail deals with them when he is in there too. At the same time Jamie is coming to terms with his own guilt about what happened to the young girl Sarah and what will happen to his family and all the people he loves in the world outside the prison. Outside the prison we see how Jamie's wife, who herself was once a cop until she had children, comes to terms with what her husband has done. Though she believes he did what he thought was best she still has to deal with the fact that her husband has killed a girl the same age as their daughter. It doesn't help when Anna, the woman Jamie had an affair with, appears on the scene wanting to help Jamie and his family. This all makes for an engrossing domestic dynamic alongside the thrilling plot of what happened the night of the shooting.
I loved Karen Campbell's writing style. It's punchy, fast paced and most importantly very real. I don't know if this comes from the fact that Campbell was herself a police officer before she started writing, it might have something to do with how direct the book is. There is, in what is a very dark book, some real wit (I laughed a fair few times) though which really reminded me of Kate Atkinson in her Broadie books and yet at the same time you really feel for all the characters even if they aren't people you would like one bit in the real world. Most importantly for me though was that I could believe it all (this goes for all genre's of books from crime to sci-fi and all in between) all the voices are real nothing is done simply for effect. There is also the history between the characters also makes for great `domestic drama' as well as reading about a man living on his nerves and trying to stay alive in prison.
I only have one very small gripe with this book and that is that in reading After The Fire before reading Karen's debut novel The Twilight Time I have inadvertently broken one of my cardinal rules... always read a series in the right order. The Twilight Time is technically a prequel to After The Fire and features some of the same characters. The fact that this book was so good, and stood firmly so well all by itself, has made all rule breaking forgiven. I do kind of wish that I had read The Twilight Time first as though at no point whatsoever do you feel you should know the characters back stories and also their history relating to one another you wish that you did know it all first. Though now of course I am incredibly excited about finding it out when I manage to get my mitts on The Twilight Time which I will be doing very, very soon.
Karen Campbell IS worth it, for all manner of reasons. Broadly speaking, most good novels merit praise because of the story or the characters, but not often do you get both. This is one of those exceptions. It ticks all the key boxes and breathes new life into my previously fading hope that I would read a really good crime fiction novel again. Here we can enjoy outstandingly well drawn characters who we can truly care for (that's the top priority) and wrapped around them is a realistic and fascinating story that would stand up on its own high standards. So to get both in one novel is a rare treat.
In essence this is a tale of rough justice, of a copper jailed for doing his job. It is told primarily from three perspectives: authorised firearms officer Jamie Worth, his ex-cop wife Cath, and Inspector Anna Cameron with whom Jamie had an illicit encounter many years earlier. In the most unlikely of circumstances, Cath and Anna join forces to see that real justice is done, but long before that even begins we are treated to a grittily moving depiction of the drastic change of life for a woman struggling to come to terms with a nightmare; a new life of supporting two very young children alone and the financial vacuum left by her husband's incarceration combined with the stigma she faces from people she once thought of as dependable friends and relatives. Meanwhile we get a raw insight into life in a Scottish prison for an ex-cop and all the wildly swinging emotions Jamie faces as he comes to terms with not only his imprisonment and its constant dangers, but the guilt he feels for taking the life of a teenage girl.
I was very impressed by this writer's creative skills and the versatility of the dialogue from different characters. One of the weaknesses I often find in other novels of this kind is that all the characters tend to sound the same, that they speak with the same accent and same personality. That's categorically not the case with Karen Campbell. Apart from an array of peripheral characters (such as prison inmates) who even themselves have carefully drawn identities, we have the three main protagonists and each one has an exceptionally well crafted persona, such that when the point-of-view shifts from one to another it prompts an alteration of the reader's thinking too - and on top of that, I was just as willing to read about Jamie or Cath or Anna equally. So often in the past a novel has characters that are more readable than others, and I find myself craving the POV of one while tolerating that of another. Not so here. Jamie, Cath and Anna are utterly different but, most unusually, equally magnetic in their own way. The bottom line is that there is real passion here - from the writer, amongst characters you can believe in and care about, and accordingly for the reader too. This novel has a heart and a pulse and I tell no lie when I kissed it when I turned the final page. There's the inevitable but ironic regret upon finishing a top-notch novel I feel in such instances, knowing that it might be several months before I read anything as good as this again, but in the meantime if you like crime fiction and you yearn for real quality and originality, look no further than this. I am in no doubt that Karen Campbell is a name who will feature in the best-seller lists for years to come. So watch out, Val McDermid, you need to raise your game because there's a new kid on the block with the ability to remove you from your throne.
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Most recent customer reviews
Colleague is placed in a position by a Senior Officer tragic result.
You must read her books they are excellent.