Author: Clare Chambers
Release date: 3rd March 2011
Genre: Thriller/ Mystery / YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: HarperCollins
An intense and thrilling teen mystery set on a tranquil island where all seems perfect! Daniel has dark secrets and a troubled past. So when his family move to the island of Wragge, a gentle backwater where local life remains undisturbed he feels he's escaped. But outsiders aren't always welcome and the more Daniel tries to conceal, the more he reveals about sinister goings on. Does this picture perfect community have something even greater to hide?
Burning Secrets is a thriller that explores mysteries and the fact that not all things that look nice are actually that way.
Daniel, a teenage boy with a difficult past, his mom - recently divorced - and his sister Louie, also a teenage with her own monsters haunting her, decide to start anew on the island of Wragge, a small and picture-perfect place that doesn't seem to know the concept of secrets. The island of Wragge forms a close-knit and private community where everyone knows everyone and everything, which makes Daniel, harbouring secrets, quite uncomfortable. Slowly, however, and especially after meeting a girl, Ramsay, Daniel feels that he could feel this island a try, as does his troubled sister Louie.
But something is not right. Wragge is too perfect a place and especially the students at the school too content, too placid and too attached to the school and the island to ever want to leave Wragge, even to study. When Daniel meets the music teacher, Helen, and she tells him about her suspicion, Daniel is pulled into a big and dangerous mystery, reluctantly, but surely. Now, he must discover the truth about the dangerous and twisted crack in the perfection of Wragge and when his sister Louie becomes involves, in a way Daniel never wanted to happen, he knows he must solve the mystery, even if he doesn't want anything to do with it.
My favourite aspect of the novel was the setting. Wragge is a small and beautiful island reminiscent of a small, private seacoast resort in Northern England. The locals are very close and know everything about each other. They don't feel the need to lock their doors, they trust everyone they know and they have a suspicion of outsiders who might bring disturbances into their perfect community. Especially the children are not how one would picture normal teenagers. No one is rebellious and everyone is happy to stay on the island forever. It is clear from the start that something is wrong on Wragge. Too much perfection is not natural and the reader knows Wragge has secrets.
The rhythm of the novel is delightful. The reader is introduced to the island in detail and although the pace might seem slow, it suits the story. The tension begins to build in the middle of the novel and keep the rest of it bathing in suspense.
The novel definitely makes for a thrilling read and the mystery, once revealed, is shocking. It makes one wonder at the things a person would do to keep changes away forever and maintain perfection after experiencing a tragedy.
However, I must confess I had a few problems with the novel. While the plot was really good, the second half of the novel was rushed and certain events were done too quickly. The ending felt rushed, too, and although I didn't mind the open ending concerning one character, as it suits the story, I did mind that the final revelation was handled so quickly. Also, things seemed to return back to normal a bit too fast and Daniel's and Louie's past was not explored enough. The general picture was given, but I still had a lot of questions and I missed the answers. I could only speculate and imagine, but in the case of Daniel and Louie, it would have been great to have a more detailed account of what happened on the fateful night that changed them, and why exactly did that happen.
Still, I can say that Burning Secrets is a good, thrilling mystery with a delightful setting and a good twist. Fans of mysteries, crime novels and thrillers will surely enjoy reading it.
Becky says: Great review Irena. It really sounds like the setting adding so much to the thrilling nature of the book. It is a shame that the resolution came too quickly for you and didn’t really answer all your questions. But nonetheless, it does sound like a novel full of twists and a gripping read.
Both our thanks go to HarperCollins for sending the book to review.