Lies Like Wildfire

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

‘Good people do bad things.’

What a thriller! The pages literally smoulder with secrets, lies, danger and betrayal throughout this compulsive and unputdownable read – an absolute scorcher of a book!

18 year old Hannah has lived in Gap Mountain all her life. It’s her final summer before college and she divides her time between wrangling horses, working in the video store and hanging out with her childhood group of friends known as ‘The Monsters.’

The long summer days sprawl out in front of them and Hannah, Mo, Violet, Drummer and Luke are living their best lives. Until one day, when swimming and fooling around at local beauty spot known as ‘The Gap’ they accidentally start a forest fire.

As daughter of the town’s Sherrif, Hannah knows all too well the penalties for starting wildfires, even accidentally and thinks she’s got the situation under control; quickly remove any evidence from the scene, disperse and it’s as if the group were never there. But the fire quickly burns out of control, destroys their hometown and leaves death in its wake.

Desperate for the truth to remain hidden, the group make a pact of silence, but the lies rapidly spiral out of control like the very fire that sparked them. Social media posts are deleted, phones destroyed. One lie leads to another, then another and the lie that started so small is now blazing through their lives like the wildfires that roared through the town.

The group out-ran the fire but they can’t outrun the police and Fire Investigators locate the origin of the fire and find damming evidence – will it link one or more of them to the scene?

As the police ramp up their questioning, who will be able to stand the heat? The net closes in and as holes start to appear in their stories, so do cracks in their friendship.

Fire crews grapple with the blaze for weeks as it changes course and heads for Yosemite National Park. The town of Gap Mountain begins to rebuild itself whilst the fire rages on but the threat of being caught hangs over the group like the smoke that still hangs in the air.

Hannah’s desire for best friend Drummer smoulders throughout the story. Drummer is hot and he knows it and his teasing ignites pure passion in Hannah as she fantasises about them being together. It’s not just the wildfire that sends temperatures soaring and there’s a couple of steamy scenes in the book that will leave teen readers hot under the collar. But cold water is about to be poured on Hannah’s heart when she discovers that Drummer is harbouring a huge secret.

The sweltering heat builds until tensions reach fever pitch in Part 2 of the book. When one member of the group mysteriously disappears, the remaining ‘Monsters’ are prime suspects and the sleepy town turns on them – as the saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire. A text sent just before the disappearance proves the group are responsible for the fire – could this now have become a motive for murder?

The evacuation of the town so well written – the sheer terror and panic is palpable. Families scramble to save what few belongings they can carry, loved ones are separated and beloved pets missing. In the author’s note we learn of Alvarez’s personal experience of wildfire and the destruction and devastation left behind.

With thanks to the Write Reads for inviting me to be part of the tour and Penguin for an advance e-copy of the book.

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