Through The Fire is the debut novel by Shawn Grady. It was featured by the CFBA in June, but I didn’t get it in time to review. It tells the story of Aidan O’Neill, a firefighter in Reno, Nevada, driven by a tragic past.
Coincidentally, Shawn Grady was a firefighter/paramedic in Reno. What are the odds?
Aidan O’Neill comes from a long line of firefighters, and he continues the family tradition even as he deals with the death of his father in the line of duty. The fire speaks to him, and he challenges the dangers past the point of confidence into recklessness. When a rookie fireman is severely injured, he is forced to take a break from the department.
He runs to Mexico, avoiding the introspection the break intended, but his suspension is cut short when an arsonist starts targeting Reno. Clues suggest a connection to his father’s death, but his gift of reading fires has left him, leaving him with doubt about his livelihood and his life.
The new fire investigator Julieanne Caldwell comes to him with new information and a past connection. His attraction to her is matched by the way the flames seem to be seeking him out. The heat rises to a fiery conclusion as Aidan wrestles with his foundation as well as a danger that shows no mercy.
This is an impressive debut for Grady. The old adage is “write what you know,” and in this case, he knows his stuff. I work at times with a fire department, and from my perspective, the gritty details of the fire and a fireman’s life puts me on the scene, coughing and squinting due to the smoke. He does a very good job keeping description fresh, even as he has numerous fire-related scenes. It never gets old, and he even stretched my vocabulary. I like an author who makes me reach for the dictionary occasionally.
The suspense is palpable as well, and the twists and menance kept me off balance on who was the bad guy. He weaves a battle of faith into the the mix as well in a very fresh, organic way. There was one stretch where the pacing got a little bogged down, but overall he keeps the temperature rising throughout the book.
He writes believable characters, guys you’d want to go against a fire with, as well as crusty bosses and jilted love. The main characters Aidan and Julieanne are conflicted and imperfect, making mistakes along the way even as you’re rooting for them.
In his bio it says he was named “Most Promising Writer” at a prominent writers conference. Through the Fire delivers on this promise. I really enjoyed the world of the firefighter, as you feel like you’re in their boots. This book jumps into my favorites of the year list, and I’ll be looking forward to more from Shawn Grady.