Book Review: The Firemaker

01.09.2018 (first published 1999) | Quercus USA
Rating: 4/5 stars


A corpse is found burning in a highly travelled park in Beijing, leaving the man that used to be alive completely unrecognizable. Detective Li Yan has recently been promoted and assigned to the case on his first day. Before he knows it, two other cases that seem to have a link drawing the three together, have been assigned to him as well. A whirlwind first day leaves Li with more dead bodies than suspects and little evidence to steer him in any direction.

He remembered being afraid of the dark as a small boy, of all the ghosts and monsters that lurked there in his childish imagination. As he grew older, he stopped being afraid, for he knew that the real monsters lurked within: fear and conceit, greed and evil.

Enter Dr. Margaret Campbell, American pathologist stationed on a teaching assignment in China for the next six weeks. Her specialty is burn victims and she is quickly poached by the Section One police department to work alongside Li to identify his charred corpse. Margaret and Li have clearly distinct and differing personalities that cause them to butt heads immediately. In a race against the clock and a country filled with social norms Margaret can’t seem to grasp, will she and Li be able to put aside their differences and catch a killer?

Dead men don’t fight back. He might have thought that true once. But this dead man was going to fight, with every ounce of strength, every last breath, every final second that he had.

THE FIREMAKER is the first book in Peter May’s China Thillers series and my first introduction to him as a writer. When Quercus posted that they were looking for people to read and review this novel I immediately jumped at the chance. What drew me to it? Well for starters, I am well known for judging a book by its cover and THE FIREMAKER has one that sucked me in immediately. I’ve also seen Peter May’s books around for years and thought their plots were something along the lines of my reading interests, but never bit the bullet. Why not start at the beginning of one of his series’? May’s writing style did not disappoint! The story was thoughtfully written and paced at a level to keep the reader engaged. I’m not typically a fan of romance in my crime fiction reads, but there was something about the relationship between Li and Margaret that made me want to cheer them on. It was a relationship very reminiscent of a long-time favorite show of mine, Bones (disclaimer: I haven’t read too much Kathy Reich, so I don’t want to compare their novels and chose the show based on Reich’s work instead). If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a mystery set in a country known for its culture and characters that make you want to learn more about them, then this is something you’ll love.

A huge thank you to Quercus for providing me a free copy of THE FIREMAKER in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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