There are some cracking crime-fiction novels being published this year and Russ Thomas’ debut Firewatching sits snugly among them. A smartly plotted, tightly written book set over seven days, it introduces DS Adam Tyler to audiences.

Working for South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit (or Sea-Crew as it’s also known), Tyler is a late twenty-something gay detective determined to solve old, unsolved cases. When a body is found bricked up in a house in a Peak District village, Tyler is called in. It’s Gerald Cartwright, a man who disappeared six years before, and he was, to all intents and purposes, buried alive.

In an odd turn of events, Tyler finds himself compromised, connected by a brief encounter to someone in the dead man’s family, although he decides not to recuse himself from what will be a high-profile case. Against this, in and around Sheffield, the Firewatcher is operating, an arsonist who also likes to blog about historic fires. Can there possibly be a link between Cartwright’s murder and the fires? Or is something at play? Tyler endeavours to find out.

Thomas creates an authentic landscape against which his plot strands and characters play out. Tyler is a credible protagonist, one with enough of a backstory to hook and sustain our interest. He is intelligent, tenacious, detached yet dedicated and scarred  (in every sense of the word) by past events – personally and professionally.

Supported by an interesting cast, some colleagues (Constable Rabbani and fidgety DI Jim Doggett), some related to the crimes (Sally Ann, Cartwright’s son, Oscar, and the eccentric, somewhat secretive Lily and Edna who all but bring him up), Tyler must manoeuvre past the false starts and curve balls thrown at him to get to the truth.

Fast-paced and action-packed, Firewatching is a well-conceived, if sometimes rather complex police procedural, hopefully the first of many such featuring DS Tyler.



Russ Thomas | Firewatching | 20 February 2020 | Simon & Schuster | hardback | £12.99

Please support independent bookshops and libraries


Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a book proof and jacket image. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour. Please check out the other reviews on the tour.

See also: ‘Where is the love? Sarah Stovell’s Home’; ‘David Young’s Stasi Winter‘;‘Nathan Blackwell, the Sound of her Voice’;Jason Arnopp’s creepily entertaining Ghoster‘; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Select Q&As/interviews: Amanda Saint‘;‘Ausma Zehanat Khan’; Mary Balogh‘; ‘Louise Voss’; ‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir’; ’Tom Cox’; ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Gunnar Staalesen’; Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist


This review is © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Any images are used for promotional purposes only. If we have unintentionally breached your copyright, please contact us and we will take the image down immediately. Thank you so much.


Tags : , , , , , ,