Josiah ran flat out over the lip of the dell and off along the path weaving in and out of the trees to make the marksman’s aim harder. It was nearly forty seconds before the next shot came, this time well off target but the time between hearing the ball and the report was reduced. The marksman was after him.
Beatty has done his research – this Victorian crime novel is thick with historical detail, making it an intriguing read. Set in the North West of England in 1841, it brings together the immense technical and industrial developments of the age with a small religious community intent on challenging the harsh practices of the local mining companies. At the heart of the novel is a novice police officer, a new breed of law enforcers in England, who is quickly caught up in events when the charismatic leader of the Children of Fire, Brother Bradshawe, is brutally murdered. Beatty doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to the bloody nature of death and violence, and his reader realises how desperate people can become when faced with the overwhelming need for revenge.
There are many fascinating strands to this story – the way that the past casts long shadows chief amongst them – but I particularly enjoyed the way Beatty examined people’s need to find someone to follow and the way individuals seek some form of redemption. Beatty brings it all together successfully and his story is one I kept coming back to once I’d read the last page – he’s able to create an air of desperate tension and the pace of the novel zips along nicely. He’s also strong on character; Josiah Ainscough is an excellent addition to the genre. All in all, a fascinating take on the industrial past in the north.
Can Josiah solve the puzzle before more people die, or is he out of his depth?
In 1841, at the height of the industrial revolution in the North West of England, Josiah Ainscough returns from his travels and surprises everyone by joining the Stockport Police Force, rather than following his adopted father’s footsteps into the Methodist ministry.
While Josiah was abroad, five men died in an explosion at the Furness Vale Powder Mill. Was this an accident or did the Children of Fire, a local religious community, have a hand in it. As Josiah struggles to find his vocation, his investigation into the Children of Fire begins. But his enquiries are derailed by the horrific crucifixion of the community’s leader.
Now Josiah must race against time to solve the puzzle of the violence loose in the Furness Vale before more people die. This is complicated by his affections for Rachael, a leading member of the Children of Fire, and the vivacious Aideen Hayes, a visitor from Ireland.
Can Josiah put together the pieces of the puzzle, or is he out of his depth? Children of Fire won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Prize for 2017.
Paul CW Beatty is an unusual combination of a novelist and a research scientist. Having worked for many years in medical research in the UK NHS and Universities, a few years ago he took an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University emerging with a distinction.
His latest novel, Children of Fire, is a Victorian murder mystery set in 1841 at the height of the industrial revolution. It won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Award in November 2017 and is published by The Book Guild Ltd.
Paul lives near Manchester in the northwest of England. Children of Fire is set against the hills of the Peak District as well as the canals and other industrial infrastructure of the Cottonopolis know as the City of Manchester.
Social Media Links – Twitter @cw_beatty