Book Review: And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic is a novel about the nature of family and belonging

Author Emma Viskic is an award-winning Australian crime writer, her critically acclaimed debut novel Resurrection Bay won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, as well as many other awards. Not only that but she’s also a classically trained clarinettist, who’s worked with Jose Carreras and Dame Kiri Te Kenawa. Her new novel, And Fire Came Down, is a reflection of modern Australia, including the Indigenous population, and sees Viskic drawing on her own experiences growing up in rural towns and cities. Indeed, Viskic’s in-depth knowledge of Indigenous culture is on show through her characters depictions. There’s racism, and white bogan hooligans, but ultimately it’s all brought together by a sense of family and belonging.

And Fire Came Down, picks up the story of Caleb Zelic, the protagonist of Resurrection Bay, who has been deaf since early childhood. This time we follow his struggle to find a woman who before she was killed, pleaded for his help through sign language. Zelic cannot get the woman’s face, or the fact she knew to sign to him, out of his mind as he tries to discover the truth. The trail leads Zelic back to Resurrection Bay, his hometown. Back at home, he finds racial tensions, intense heat, and on top of that his ex wife, and his brother – a former drug addict. Zelic is haunted by nagging dreams, all whilst trying to find out who this woman is, so he’s a bit of time bomb waiting to explode. Zelic must search through the clues, and find the answers, all before the trail goes cold.

 

I found the novel was successful in building suspense as I turned each page. But like with some horror movies, the climax, I felt, was a little incredulous. But then desperate killers in that form really do exist. To say why, would spoil the book’s conclusion, but for me, the ending just didn’t sit well. But it did make me react, and that is the sign of a gifted writer. And Fire Came Down is definitely a well-crafted novel, and certainly not predictable. The pages swerve, twist and often take a step in an unusual direction, so this novel is definitely worth a read. I always enjoy reading Australian novels, and books like this go to show that there is a lot of talent out there.

And Fire Came Down is available now through Echo Publishing