Playing With Fire by Kerry Wilkinson

Playing With FireDS Jessica Daniel is tasked with escorting Martin Chadwick from prison. He was jailed seven years ago for setting fire to a local pub, unaware of the fact that someone who asleep inside. Despite the protests of the victim’s father, Chadwick has returned to his family home. And soon the fires start again…

Has Chadwick returned to his earlier habits? Jessica isn’t convinced – her attention is drawn to instead to Chadwick’s son, Ryan, an extremely angry young man. But there are other things to deal with as well. A teenage girl has apparently committed suicide and when Jessica begins to look into it, she finds a link to the fires – Ryan Chadwick himself. But with the arsonist striking again and again, Jessica finds herself in a race against time to prove her suspicions – before things get extremely personal…

One of my less endearing habits is letting an author slip away from my attention. This is the fifth in the Jessica Daniel series – following Locked In, Vigilante, The Woman In Black and Think Of The Children, all of which I enjoyed. The first two have an element of the impossible crime about them, the others, while without impossibility, still have clever plots and are great reads. So why has it been over six months since I came back to the series? No idea, really. Just too many other books getting in the way, I guess.

And this is another strong entry in the series. What’s so great about it? First of all, it’s extremely readable. That’s a hard quality to quantify, but I read the first half of the book without putting it down. The plot slowly opens up  raising more and more questions while keeping the plot tightly in focus. Jessica’s usual trait of obsessing over a suspect comes to the fore again, although not quite as extremely as before – rather sensibly, she has noticed this habit of hers, so she has some strategies to deal with it – not the most sensible strategies, as that wouldn’t make interesting reading, but Kerry Wilkinson does take a different tack with it.

One aspect that I was less keen on was Jessica’s attraction to a [INSERT SWEAR WORD] of a journalist when she’s reasonably happily engaged, although that’s probably a personal thing –  I like reading about happy relationships. But at least… no, that’s probably a spoiler. Let’s just say things resolve themselves nicely.

The overall mystery – well, it’s more of a police procedural rather than a classically clued mystery, but it’s still a whodunit. Despite the presence of an obvious suspect, I came to the conclusion that there were enough questions that I would have been happy if either he did it or someone else did. Obviously I’m not going to tell you which it is, but that was a big plus point for me. I’m not keen on the obvious suspect route, but it didn’t bother me here at all.

So all in all, a highly enjoyable read and apologies to Kerry for waiting so long to come back to the series. I’ll try and be back sooner next time.

Highly Recommended.

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