I have a quasi-obsessive relationship with Erin Kelly’s work. When I see a new book of hers soon to be released, I pre-order it, because I must have it as soon as possible. She is further proof that the Europeans are really kicking our ass in the literary realm.
I first met her through The Poison Tree (which is still arguably my favorite of her books). She’s British; I’ve never been to London, so she painted a world for me in Poison Tree of youthful gluttony, violence, and horror, surrounded by Brit charm and vengeance. How can you not love that? Then came The Dark Rose, another thriller filled with regret, angst, and sex. Do you see a pattern here? Erin Kelly loves characters who linger in darkness, but her books are not downers; they’re just creepy and they have a way of making you squirm.
Her most recent opus, The Burning Air, was only released in America weeks ago. I pre-ordered it (duh), so I had a copy in my hands day of its release. Did I read the synopsis? Nope. The book could have been about two kids playing on a swing set, and I would buy it simply because Erin Kelly wrote it—and when she writes, she doesn’t just put words on a page. She uses words to create images that stay with you for hours, days, weeks after you’ve put the book down.
The Burning Air is no different than her first two fantastic pieces of literature. This one follows the close-knit MacBrides as they plan a weekend visit to the family barn in Devon, following the death of their worshipped matriarch, Lydia. The grown up kids arrive with their children and all their significant others, including a new addition to the family—a strange, quiet girl named Kerry. Together with their father, they plan to scatter Lydia’s ashes at the barn, the place where they spent so many happy days with dear mum.
As expected, things go incredibly awry. I’d love to tell you what things go awry, but of course, I can’t. Where’s the fun in ruining the suspense? I will say … you’ll never see it coming.
Erin Kelly has a telltale modus operandi: she loves jumping around in time. This book takes place in the “present,” but all things that happen in the “present” are based on things (horrible things) that happened in the “past.” Kelly also often jumps from character to character, developing entire segments from different character perspectives. Although she is a genius at both of these literary techniques, her true mind-boggling skill rests in her use of suspense.
Just like in The Poison Tree and The Dark Rose, there are moments in The Burning Air when I had to stop, reread, reread again, and then shout, “Oh, no she didn’t!” I tried to keep Jake abreast of plot developments, but as soon as I explained one aspect, the next day, there would be a new twist, and Jake would be left asking, “But I thought you said <insert character name> was crazy,” when in fact, <insert character name> is completely sane but surrounded by a crazy situation. No one keeps me guessing like Erin Kelly.
Feel free to jump in to this, her newest release. I promise that once you’ve finished, you’ll go back and read her others. Not only can she make guts and gore sound beautiful, but Kelly redefines the phrase “page-turner.”