Title: Fire Damage
Author: Kate Medina
Publisher: 4th Estate
When psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn starts counselling Sami, the four-year-old son of an injured Major, she begins to suspect that his trauma runs deeper than his family have led her to believe. Why does he refer to himself as “the girl”? And who is the “Shadowman” who instils such terror in her patient?
Meanwhile, Flynn’s former patient, Captain Ben Callan, is investigating the controversial death of an officer in Afghanistan. Shot only days before he was due to arrive home, there is only one suspect – a fellow soldier who is refusing to talk.
Flynn and Callan’s cases converge when a dead body is found washed up on a Sussex beach, revealing a connection between Sami and the dead soldier. And it soon becomes clear that what seemed to have its origins in Afghanistan began with a secret much closer to home.
Fire Damage is an interesting, gripping psychological thriller that addresses a slightly different theme and a fresh offering to that which we’re used to reading about in this genre.
Jessie Flynn is a psychologist, currently working with the US Army, so she helps counsel members of the forces after they return from action. She is given a case which concerns a young boy who seems to be a little disturbed, and in investigating this, plenty of other – and some rather dark – issues come to the surface, not just with their family but with the wider community.
I liked that this novel had the police procedural elements to it mixed in with the psychology and information about life living with (or without, in some sad cases) army personnel. There are some characters which you feel really sorry for, and it highlights the plight of many veterans who are physically or psychologically damaged, often with PTSD, from their service. I found the subject matter really interesting, though disturbing and emotional at times, and felt like it was a breath of fresh air amongst many ‘samey’ novels.
Jessie Flynn is a likeable character. She has her own problems, but her vulnerability makes her even more likeable and you’re willing her to be okay and not let her demons get the better of her – at least not completely, anyway. I enjoyed reading about both her work and her personal life – there’s a good balance between both. I particularly enjoyed reading about her working (and personal) relationship with Callan, especially now he’s no longer Jessie’s patient and is instead working alongside her.
I haven’t read any other novels by author Kate Medina, but would like to now! I think she handles some potentially upsetting and emotional subjects in a skilled and sensitive way, and thought this was a sparkling debut from what promises to be a great new crime/ thriller series. A recommended read!