A Lovely Way to Burn (The Plague Times Trilogy 1) , by Louise Welsh

Publisher: John Murray | Publication date: 1st January 2015 | Edition: Paperback (own copy)

Firstly, an example of a sign in the Doctor’s surgery (no, not mine, the one in the book):

COUGHING, VOMTIING, DIARRHOEA, RASH, SWOLLEN GLANDS – if you experience a combination of three or more of these symptoms, avoid sharing them with your friends and family…

A Lovely Way To Burn

This is the first of the plague times trilogy

Set in the heaving city of London, a pandemic looms.

The end of the world is nigh, so why would anyone care about finding the killer of one person, when the entire population around you could be dying?

Perhaps there’s a moral here that someone SHOULD care. Just because the rest of the world is going to hell, it doesn’t mean to say we should all join the queue.

Stevie (Stephanie) Flint had been dating Dr Simon Sharkey for a few months. The Doctor rarely spoke of his work at St Thomas’s Hospital, or his family come to think of it. In fact, when she was stood up on a date Stevie had drawn the conclusion that they didn’t really have that much in common and perhaps they should just call it a day.

She decided to call round to his flat but is shocked to discover the doctor’s body. The shocks kept coming when the authorities confirmed he’d died of natural causes, not even a new virus that was aptly named “the sweats”.

A lot of people were already coming down with this illness. It appeared that this was not isolated to a few cases as first thought, if anything it was getting progressively worse. And when people quite literally start dropping like flies, order, common decency and medical resources are contorted past their breaking point.

The dilemmas continue for Stevie when she is handed a note addressed to her that was found in Simon’s flat. It told her about something he had concealed in her house, but more importantly, that she wasn’t to trust anyone with it.

As they didn’t know each other that well, she couldn’t understand why he’d do this, or the reasoning behind his cloak and dagger act. Despite her reservations she followed the instructions Simon had left for her, only to hit wall after wall in her quest – as time ticks away, she wonders if his death was as innocent as the authorities led her to believe.

While Stevie endeavours to discover the truth she is also faced with the average person’s reaction to the continuing epidemic; people simply don’t care about the truth anymore when their own survival is at stake. But ultimately, could people’s survival depend on her?

In this book, Louise Welsh offers concise storytelling and a genuine sense of how quickly everything can go down the pan when there is little public control, coupled with the average survivor’s reaction in the time of crisis. The ensuing panic is perfectly accompanied by the underlying mystery element and a decent dose of betrayal.

Seeing the mixed reviews on Amazon etc, it does appear to be a bit of a ‘Marmite’ book.

Me? I liked it. And I’d be curious to read the next instalment in this series to see how the story continues.

Rating: 4/5


Follow the writer on Twitter: @louisewelsh00

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