Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SCARLETT FIRE by Gabriella Chester


by Gabriella Chester

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4808-8671-1
Publisher: Archway Publishing

In Chester’s debut mystery, a layout designer for a rather dull interior design magazine finds her life spiced up when she receives a mysterious email

Scarlett Reid receives a message in her work inbox from an address that she doesn’t recognize, and, for some reason, it catches her eye. The subject line (“Please read this story”) would prompt most people to toss it in the trash, but Scarlett is bored enough to take the bait. After opening the attached file—a rookie error in this day and age—she finds herself reading a journal from August 1987, written by someone named Kendra, who claims to have been at the scene of a young woman’s murder at a Grateful Dead concert. It becomes increasingly apparent that Scarlett may have a personal connection to the events that the diary describes. As the cryptic messages continue to arrive, Scarlett, with some help from her flighty work colleague Sophie Campbell, attempts to unravel the mystery of what looks very much like an unsolved serial-killer case—and to figure out what role she plays in the story. Chester’s novel gets more confident in tone as the narrative develops, and there’s some entertaining sleuthing from Scarlett and Sophie throughout. However, there are relatively few thrills, overall, and the only real sense of threat comes in the closing third. Much of the plot revolves around the pair’s tracking down people with ties to the elusive Kendra, which, though often engaging, feels like a prelude to a larger development that never arrives. Still, the story does have a certain spring in its step, and Scarlett herself is a fine heroine. A sequel is planned, and if the next installment can conjure up a more substantial plot, there may be some mileage in the series.

An uneven but promising whodunit.