Rings of Smoke – Diane O’Toole
Erin Fallon is the eldest daughter of an Irish immigrant who took his family to a small town on the Lancashire/Cumbria border for what he believed to be a better life. It was what her mother wanted, but once she got it, it wasn’t enough. She had to have more.
Leonard Fitch is an eminent neurosurgeon. His mother was never satisfied either, and her constant demands led to his father being killed in a motor accident. Leonard loved his father; he was the only person to treat him with kindness and affection. He hated his mother but could never stand up to her. Tormented and ridiculed throughout his childhood, Leonard swore to exact revenge on womankind in general, but mothers in particular.
At a secluded lodge in the depths of Bleazedale Forest, for four years he carries out the most abominable atrocities with impunity. He takes girls on their birthday and keeps them holed up for a full twelve months before killing them and sending their mothers a birthday card with a picture of their beloved little girl, dead and with their severed feet placed either side of their head.
My thanks to Louise of Crime Book Club for the chance to join the Tour.
I have noticed a few online interactions recently where people have not enjoyed books which they consider too graphic. While this is never something that has concerned me I feel it only fair to flag up that Rings of Smoke does contain some scenes which some readers may find disturbing.
Not me though so onwards to the story!
Leonard Fitch is quite a nasty piece of work – he is exacting revenge for a lifetime of torment by kidnapping girls, subjecting them to a year of torture and abuse. He then finally ends their suffering on their birthday and sends the distraught family pictures of their daughter’s mutilated corpse.
Having established Finch as a man to avoid the story switches to Erin Fallon. She is the eldest of four siblings and we are brought into the family home as her father secures a promotion and the chance to improve their lot in life with a little extra money each month. A move to a new town leaves Erin feeling lonely and unsettled. There are problems at home and soon Erin finds she is the one keeping the household together- however Finch has her in his sights.
I enjoyed how Diane O’Toole established Erin’s family at the heart of the story. Seeing how Erin is integral to her family’s wellbeing made the threat of Finch more acute. While you read you cannot help but feel that if Finch managed to trap Erin that her family would crumble apart.
As we know Finch for the monster that he is I particularly enjoyed that the author also elected to show Finch living his ‘normal’ life too. Finch’s revenge is a long term entertainment for him. Girls are held for 12 months at a time, therefore, he needs to have a house, a career, co-workers and a semblance of a normal existence. His role as a neurosurgeon places him into a busy hospital and I loved these scenes as the politics of the hospital play out, evolving around the important surgeons and their respective staffers. It gave the characters the depth that is not always established in the books I read.
As I read Rings of Smoke I realised that there was a possible outcome that I did not want to see happen. It kept me reading late into the night as I had to know if Finch was going to be foiled. The endgame was built up nicely and delivered more than one twist that I had not seen coming.
I had fun with Rings of Smoke, it took a slightly different approach to the serial killer story by concentrating on the killer and his next victim. Nicely done.