Burning Secrets by Ruth Sutton #BookReview #BlogTour

It’s the spring of 2001 and Foot & Mouth disease is raging across Cumbria. 
Twelve-year-old Helen Heslop is forced to leave her family farm and move in with relatives in a nearby town because the strict quarantine means she can’t travel back and forth to school in case she inadvertently helps spread the disease.
As the authorities and the local farming communities try desperately to contain the outbreak, tensions run high and everyone’s emotions are close to the surface.
And then Helen disappears.
The police search expands all over the northwest coast where farms are barricaded and farming families have been plunged into chaos - not least the Hislop family, where potentially explosive fault lines are exposed.
Under the strain tensions build inside the police team too, where local DC Maureen Pritchard is caught between old school DI Bell and new broom DS Anna Penrose.
Will Helen survive? And can life for the Heslop family ever be the same, once burning secrets are discovered and old scores settled?

It's such a pleasure to be one of the hosts for today's leg of the blog tour for Burning Secrets by Ruth Sutton. Many thanks to the author, Fahrenheit Press and Emma Welton from damppebbles blog tours for inviting me and for my ecopy of the novel.

Burning Secrets is ostensibly a police procedural drama about the search for a missing girl but actually it's about far more than that. Set during the devastating Foot & Mouth outbreak in 2001, it's as much about long-held secrets and the deep tensions that run can run high in rural communities as it is about the investigation.
Helen's disappearance is investigated by DS Anna Penrose and DC Maureen Pritchard and the two women don't have an easy working relationship. Maureen is the local officer and has years of experience so is bitter that she has been passed over for the role of DS . Meanwhile, Anna is an incomer having transferred from the military police in what is seen as a political move to have more women in the senior ranks. Anna is intelligent and highly skilled but lacks Maureen's local knowledge and natural intuition. Although the two women are very different, I liked and could empathise with both of them. Maureen is the more obviously sympathetic character and I shared her frustration at having been denied a promotion by her misogynistic boss, DI Bell only for him to have his hand forced with Anna's appointment. Anna is perhaps more reserved and struggles to be accepted by the rural community and I really felt for her trying to be accepted by her fellow officers and the locals. It's certainly refreshing to read a book with two women who each bring their own strengths to the investigation and though there are tensions between them, it never feels as though we are being pushed to favour one over the other.
It's hard to say much about the plot without giving anything away, suffice to say that it didn't go in the direction I expected at all. The novel allows us to know more of what is happening than the characters do at times which makes for an intriguing read as the twists and turns ensure it is far from obvious as to how things will eventually pan out. The inclusion of the Foot & Mouth crisis adds an extra element of drama to the proceedings as it affects the police's ability to investigate thoroughly and more poignantly is shown to have a shattering impact on the farmers fearing for their livelihoods. As is pointed out in the book, poverty isn't just an urban issue and the crisis caused terrible misery to many families living in rural areas. There's an almost apocalyptic feel to the novel with roads closed, farms shut off from the outside world and the smell from the vast pyres of burning animals permeating the Cumbrian countryside.
Burning Secrets is a terrifically atmospheric police procedural with a superbly rendered cast of characters. The ending is arguably a little flat following the earlier tension but in truth the conclusion is far more believable than an explosive finish would have been and I admire the author for reflecting what would be the more likely outcome here. There is plenty of scope for a series set in the area and I'd be intrigued to see how the relationship between Penrose and Pritchard develops in the future. However, even if there isn't a sequel I am looking forward to reading Ruth Sutton's next book having thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Burning Secrets is published by Fahrenheit Press and can be purchased from the following;
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Ruth is a very independent person, which – like many things – is good up to a point, but can get tricky sometimes. She lives in a very beautiful place, but it’s a long way to a cinema, or a big supermarket, and if the time comes when she can’t or doesn’t want to drive, she’ll have to move as there’s no public transport. She qualifies for a bus pass, but there aren’t any buses. Her daughter and her family live quite close by, and she loves to see her two grandchildren. After decades on her own, she has a partner whom she loves. They each have their own house, 40 minutes apart, and this life style suits them both. Ruth wrote her first novel after she was 60.

In addition, Ruth has self-published a trilogy entitled Between the Mountains and the Sea; A Good Liar tells the story of Jessie who risks career and independence with a love affair, whilst her secret past draws ever closer. Forgiven is set among the coal mines and fells of the Cumberland coast. Jessie’s struggle for happiness continues. Fallout features the nuclear disaster at Windscale, which brings a compelling stranger into Jessie’s world.


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