Thursday, May 5, 2022

ARC Review: And By Fire by Evie Hawtrey

And By Fire

Evie Hawtrey
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (May 10, 2022)

Description: Tempered by fire and separated by centuries, two extraordinary female detectives track a pair of murderous geniuses who will burn the world for their art in this mystery perfect for fans of Sarah Penner and Dan Brown.

Nigella Parker, Detective Inspector with the City Police, has a deeply rooted fear of fire and a talent for solving deadly arson cases. When a charred figure is found curled beside Sir Christopher Wren’s Monument to the Great Fire of London, Nigella is dragged into a case pitting her against a murderous artist creating sculptures using burnt flesh.

Nigella partners with Colm O’Leary of Scotland Yard to track the arsonist across greater London. The pair are more than colleagues—they were lovers until O’Leary made the mistake of uttering three little words. Their past isn’t the only buried history as they race to connect the dots between an antique nail pulled from a dead man’s hands and a long-forgotten architect dwarfed by the life’s work of Sir Christopher Wren.

Wren, one of London’s most famous architects, is everywhere the pair turn. Digging into his legacy leads the DCIs into the coldest of cold cases: a search for a bookseller gone missing during the Great Fire of London. More than 350 years earlier, while looking for their friend, a second pair of detectives—a lady-in-waiting to the Queen and a royal fireworks maker—discovered foul play in the supposedly accidental destruction of St. Paul’s Cathedral…but did that same devilry lead to murder? And can these centuries-old crimes help catch a modern-day murderer?

As Nigella and O’Leary rush to decode clues, past and present, London’s killer-artist sets his sights on a member of the investigative team as the subject of his next fiery masterpiece.

My Thoughts: This dual timeline story has women separated by more than 300 years of time solving mysteries that are somewhat related.

Detective Inspector Nigella Parker has a record of success with arson cases. When she's called in to investigate a charred human figure at Christopher Wren's Monument to the Great Fire of London, she and her partner Colm O'Leary of Scotland yard find themselves on the trail of a murderer who considers himself an underappreciated artist.

While in the past Lady Margaret Dove falls in love with a man of much lower social class who happens to have a Royal Patent from King Charles II to make fireworks for his court. Margaret and Etienne are drawn together by their common love of science but pulled apart by the vast difference in their social status. When they go searching for a friend after the Great Fire of 1666, they find his body and come to believe that he was murdered. Their investigation leads them to Sir Christopher Wren. Wren felt that his genius was under appreciated and that rebuilding St. Paul's was his destiny. But first it had to be completely destroyed during the fire even if he had to manipulate events to make it so. And a few deaths wouldn't be too high a price to pay.

Meanwhile in the present, Nigella and Colm begin to narrow the suspect lists and focus in on an artist who has patterned himself on an architect who worked rebuilding London after the Great Fire but who did not receive the acclaim of Christopher Wren.

I liked the way the two stories were woven together. I liked the romance in the 1666 story and the way the two lovers found a way to be together. The characters in the modern part of the story were also fascinating. I liked the gradual reveal of Nigella's past and the reason for her interest in arson. I liked that she was a dedicated police officer who built her life deliberately to exclude relationships outside of her work. 

The story was intriguing, and the police procedural aspects were well integrated into the plot. I liked trying to follow along with the detectives as the clues were gradually revealed. 

Favorite Quote:
Nigella knew failure was part of the job: crimes went unsolved, deaths weren't prevented. If you couldn't accept that, then you couldn't be a detective. And if you were good at your job, you solved and saved more than you lost. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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