Title: The Burning
Author: Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman
Published by: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Publication date: 21st September 2021
Genre: Thriller, Crime
When a wealthy man is found murdered in his hilltop home, Deputy Coroner Clay Edison is shocked to discover a link to his own brother Luke on the scene.
Luke is fresh out of prison and struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. But surely he’s not a killer?
When Luke goes missing, the case becomes even more fraught for Clay. He knows that the conflict between family and the truth could take him down the wrong path.
Is his brother capable of murder? Or could he be a victim too?
As wildfires and blackouts sweep through the state of California,
the truth will only get harder to find.
I was sent a physical copy of The Burning by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman by publisher, Penguin, Cornerstone, in return for an honest review. Many thanks for sending me a copy of this book and I hope you find my review to your satisfaction.
The Burning is the 4th book in the Clay Edison series by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman – a father-son writing duo. Clay Edison is a Deputy Coroner and steadfast in his moral compass; so when he finds a tenuous link to his own brother at the crime scene of an affluent businessman the needle goes haywire!
This is the second book in the Clay Edison series that I have had the good fortune to read and The Burning follows on nicely from Lost Souls. A wildfire has wrapped California in chaos keeping the Edison family drama close, almost as much as the case that unfolds around Clay – however, in this case, both are closely entwined. Clays brother, Luke, has been in trouble with the law before and has a history of drug addiction and violence. He’s managed to turn his life around since leaving prison, but his relationship with his brother has been on rocky ground ever since.
Clay Edison is usually a morally upright character, speaking for those that have no voice of their own – the dead, so when his latest crime scene has links to his brother, he begins to ask questions. Of his brother; who has since vanished, his brother’s family, and of himself. The reader spends a lot of time throughout The Burning inside Clay Edison’s head – the questions that he is demanding answers to are often approached through his thoughts. This made for some interesting reading as it threw me off the scent of the case itself; of more concern was if Luke could have gone off the deep-end again than for the dead-body of the businessman he’d had dealings with. Was Luke innocent of guilty of all that had been placed upon him? There were questions of second-guessing another person’s ability to change their lives and the doubts were well described, in both forms. The ones that had placed judgment on Luke via his brother and the counter to that opinion in Luke’s eccentric wife.
The vast differences in Luke and Clay’s life also had a part to play – Luke and his wife live off the grid. Their contrast to the normality of Clay’s life added an unusual dynamic to their relationships and added an additional element of interest for the reader. I found the scenes in which Luke’s world was described particularly enjoyable for the graphic imagery of the imagination involved.
Due to the nature of the missing person case and how close it is to home for Clay, he too ‘goes off the grid’ in terms of his investigation methods. There’s no backup from official means in The Burning and Clay has to go it alone. His methods become increasingly frantic and questionable; resorting to contacting those that his brother has harmed, breaking into crime scenes, and withholding information from the police. It’s a shrewd case of judgment that doesn’t paint Clay Edison in the usual shining light he usually falls under. I found The Burning a bold statement when it comes to addressing beloved characters and putting them into situations that don’t show their character in the best possible way; I questioned many of Clays methods and motivations throughout The Burning, which, ultimately, is what kept the pages turning for me. Yes, there was the desire to know the resolution of the case and find out what happened, but the crux was ‘Will Clay manage to do this alone?’ and ‘Will there be repercussions for his own actions?’
The Burning isn’t an all-out-action thrill ride. It’s a slow, suspenseful investigation that builds up as the book progresses and the truth is slowly revealed. The heart of the case links back to the previous book in the series and while I believe The Burning can be read as a stand-alone – all the blanks are filled in – I believe that reading Lost Souls will benefit the reader of The Burning as it gives a broader, more complete picture of events.
The backdrop throughout The Burning is Californian Wildfire, which helps give the book its title. This adds yet another layer of suspense throughout the book and gives an increasing feature to the events that happen. Rather than just being a ‘thing’ that is happening around the characters, it is involved within the narrative and has an important part to play in the novel. It impacts some of the questionable drama between Clay and his wife, Amy. It holds an important impact as the book comes to its climax. The description of these fires seemed to leap out of the page and it’s as close to a wildfire I’d ever like to come if their words are anything to go by!
Together, Jesse and Jonathan Kellerman paint a wondrous worldview. Their handling of description is vivid, yet easy to digest. They are concise with their words. Through them you can easily picture the events as they happen and the world in which they transpire. I found the melding of their writing near seamless; not knowing which of the two authored penned which part and it made for a very smooth, immersive piece of writing.
A highly-entertaining, suspenseful read with character development that leaves the reader questioning the main characters actions. A vividly described setting that houses masterful depictions of crime-scenes, wildfires and the inner thoughts of questioning morality. A book that links back to previous books in the series nicely and draws on events that happened to prior events – so may be more beneficial reading to those that have read previous books in the series; particularly Lost Souls.