PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 1, 2012
he gripping beginning of Mortal Fire by C.F. Dunn introduces us to Dr. Emma D’Eresby from England. She views the aftermath of a fatal accident on her taxi ride to her new post at Howard’s Lake College in western Maine. A deceased woman is being gently attended to by a tall blonde man at the scene.
The professor of history is about to start her job as a tutor to graduate students preparing for their Master’s thesis. Her main purpose for accepting the post is to read an ancient journal that is locked away in the library archives. Emma studies torture to try to determine why someone would choose the methods used to punish or enforce a confession. She is not looking for the ways the condemned were inflicted with pain and terror. She wants to be able to understand the fear, the height of paranoia that led to the torturing of others in the name of justice or religion.
When viewing pictures in a 17th century Italian book based on the treatment of heretics by religious courts Emma takes notice of the faces of the torturers. There is no pleasure to be seen in their expressions, only concern for the people being tortured. Having just read The Hangman’s Daughter and The Dark Monk which are both based on a 17th century executioner and his family I see the continuation of the same belief. These people were forced into their roles of executioner and torturers to do the bidding of those in high places during the time period.
Three men add complications to Emma’s life. Sam Wiesner, a mathematics professor pursues her relentlessly, hoping for a romantic relationship. Medical doctor Matthew Lynes is a mysterious widower that draws her attention. She recognizes him as the man who was at the fatal accident scene. Then there is Professor Staahl, a creepy individual who frightens Emma.
A violent attack on Emma brings her close to Dr. Lynes who takes care of her. He is visibly torn between his growing romantic interest in her and the secret that controls his existence. He has heard her express the fact that she is a born-again Christian and allude to the fact that he could harm her faith.
I found the book to be intriguing. The beginning chapters of the next book in the series are found at the end of the novel. I read straight through to the last page and can’t wait for the next volume to be released. I hope the writer delves deeper into the contents of the journal. As a Mainer I will say that I didn’t like the way law officers are portrayed in the book. One questionable officer would be reasonable. There was no need for more the one inept or seemingly ignorant officer. The characteristics of Emma as a Christian are at a bare minimum in the story. I hope this wasn’t added as an afterthought to sell the book.
n C.F. Dunn’s newest book, Mortal Fire (The Secret of the Journal), historian Dr. Emma D’Eresby leaves her teaching position at Cambridge University in England and travels to Maine for her new position at an elite university. Her sole purpose … uncovering the long, misplaced family journal that had once been in the possession of her grandfather, but is now housed in the library of the university where she will be teaching in Maine.
Emma quickly befriends a fellow professor, Elena, and Elena’s suitor, Matias. She also encounters professors that carry with them not only dark backgrounds, but devious and lecherous intentions. Emma is quick to sense this from the very beginning of their introductions. However, there is one mysterious man, Dr. Matthew Lynes, who captures, not only her attention, but ultimately her heart as well. But his background is also reticent and puzzling.
I struggle with relaying just how this ‘mystery’ unfolds because the book never really makes that clear. Oh, there is a mystery, indeed. Emma is brutally attacked because of it but you’ll look long and hard to find out how it fits into the storyline of this book. And be prepared, the answers do not come in this book … but in the book that is to follow, Death Be Not Proud (The Secret of the Journal). It’s important for me to tell you this because the book doesn’t. At least not until you get to the very end and discover you’re only reading the beginning of the story and the rest is yet to come–in another book, in a series of books.
While the author, C.F. Dunn, does an above average job at keeping you engaged in the dialogue, you will spend the first five chapters of more than enough narration describing who the characters are; the surroundings Emma is in; the university and its staff, etc. I pushed through those five chapters to actually get to a part that piqued my curiosity about what the actual plot was. I knew it had to do with the mysterious journal she’s come thousands of miles to see, yet the journal is barely even talked about in this book. If there’s a ‘secret’ to this journal, then what is it? I couldn’t tell you and neither will this book.
Make no mistake about it, this particular book is a love story. Almost the entire length of this healthy 382 page book is spent on the growing relationship between Emma and the mysterious Matthew. Using the backdrop of her faith, the embers ignited between the two of them is kept clean and left to your imagination. It truly is the only part of this book that kept me slightly entertained.
I’m not one to look at the end of the book for hints of what’s to come and why it seems to be taking so long to get to the mystery. Therefore, I never knew throughout the entire time I was reading that the reason the mystery was not unfolding was because this was ‘part one’. When done, I checked the book’s cover, both front and back, and even the acknowledgments, to see if I missed that important note, yet not once does it mention you are reading only the first book. I was deflated.
I did appreciate the well-written dialogue and descriptive narration that was not too adjective heavy. I also did like the way the love story developed between the two main characters. But, liking that as much as I did does not mean I enjoyed the format of this book. If the author’s intention was to leave you feeling on the edge of your seat, full of anticipation of answers to come, this book falls far short of that. If the author’s intention was to get you so wrapped up in this story that you will be standing in line to find out what happens when volume two comes out, it falls even flatter. I can say with all assurance, I have no interest whatsoever in picking up volume two. Any expectations I might have of it is that it most likely will contain more questions than answers, just like its predecessor. Sadly, I was very disappointed in this book.