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The Burning Air: A Novel Hardcover – February 21, 2013

49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The MacBride family has only known privilege and success—father Rowan is headmaster at the elite Saxby School, matriarch Lydia is a respected magistrate, and their grown children have been afforded the luxury of being able to do as they please in life. When Lydia dies from cancer, a sinister chill takes over the family, and not just because they are in mourning—Darcy, a mysterious figure from their past, has decided to exact revenge against the entire clan. Born in poverty to a deranged mother, Darcy was denied a scholarship to Saxby and has vowed revenge on the MacBrides, holding them responsible for every little thing that’s gone wrong since then. As the family gathers at their rural vacation home to spread Lydia’s ashes, they are unaware that their tormentor has put mechanisms in place to bring them down one by one. As with her previous psychological thrillers, Kelly (The Dark Rose, 2011) shows a knack for creating realistic, creepy characters that make readers squirm. Fans of Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell will be lining up to read this one. --Rebecca Vnuk



“Erin Kelly is a seriously good writer, and this gripping novel is her best yet. I really loved it—couldn't put it down!”
Sophie Hannah

The Burning Air is a clever, creepy exploration of the deceit hidden even within the most apparently loving of families and the very fine line between justice and revenge. Erin Kelly is brilliant at showing the relentlessness of obsession and the evil that can be done in the name of love.”
Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner

“Tension-filled . . . skillfully drawn characters and masterful building of suspense, which reaches a literally searing climax."
—Publishers Weekly

Praise for THE DARK ROSE:

“Everything we love in a thriller—obsessive passion, haunting secrets, a shocking ending—is here, set among the creepily atmospheric ruins of a 16th century English garden."
O, The Oprah Magazine

“With its rich intertwining of viewpoints and time frames, its nuances of character and class, its sustained suspense . . . this harrowing novel is a work of true talent.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[Kelly] draws readers in with her compelling stories; then, she dims the lights, darkens the worldview and bolts the exit doors. . . . It’s useless to resist: You must read it.”
Maureen Corrigan,

“Erin Kelly has delivered a stunning look at human desperation, loyalty, and absolute terror. . . . First class writing that is absolutely captivating!”
Suspense Magazine


“A terrific suspense debut, reminiscent of another British woman’s auspicious bow: Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. The shadows gather until the ending looms like a threatening figure. This one gets the writer’s ultimate bit of praise: I wish I had written it.”
Stephen King

“A compelling creeper . . . More please, Ms. Kelly! Quickly!”
The Washington Post

“There is a brooding sense of impending doom and imminent danger. . . . [T]he explosive ending, its revelations about the threesome and the lengths to which people will go to preserve or take what's theirs, makes THE POISON TREE a rich and satisfying pleasure.”
USA Today

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (February 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026722
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Erin Kelly has worked as a freelance journalist for ten years. A regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Psychologies, Red, and Look, she has also written for Elle, Marie Claire, and Glamour.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By gpangel on April 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
My rating:5 of 5 stars
The Burning Air is a Viking Adult publication with a Feb. 2013 release date. Often I have found that novels promoted as psychological thrillers really don't fall into that genre. Many times they are just mysteries or thrillers with a darker edge to them, but in the case of The Burning Air by Erin Kelly, the description of psychological thriller is dead on. Rowan and Lydia have an idealic life. They have a good marriage, three healthy children, great careers, a nice house. But, when Rowan, a head master at a prestigious school is targeted by an obsessed mother and son over the rejection of a scholorship, the family finds their lives being scripted for them by a clever villian bent on revenge. Writing a review for this book is like walking through a land mine. I don't want to give away anything, so let's just say that this book has many twist and turns. Lydia is dying of cancer. We learn that she has kept journals for her entire married life and that mixed into the mundane everyday musings are some terribly dark secrets. When Lydia passes away, the family gathers for a traditional bonfire with their father. Over this weekend, the long buried secrets that tormented Lydia threaten to come to light. Circumstances will bring this family together and bond them forever as they face an enemy and deal with life and death situations they never saw coming. For me, psychological suspense by definition is dark, twisty, and taut. Believe me, this book is all of those things. But, it is also the story of the strength of family. In the end we are left with the feeling that all those who remain will now be completely free from the past and will move forward with the help and love of one another. The book was well written, well plotted and utterly absorbing. Highly recommend! Thanks to Netgalley and Viking publishing for the ARC
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tom S. on February 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I first discovered this British suspense writer when I read The Poison Tree, which was terrific. Then I read her second novel, The Dark Rose, and it was as good as the first one. Now I've read her third book, THE BURNING AIR, and...well, it's good, but not quite as enjoyable for me as the first two.

This is a "bigger" book than the others, with a well-to-do British family that we see in the present and the past. The dying matriarch writes about a lot of troubling secrets in her life. We meet her children, 3 of them, and we learn all about them. A child is abducted. Then we go back to the past, to a man who may or may not hold the key see what I mean? It's a complicated story, and it takes a while to sort out all the parents and siblings and relatives and friends, past and present. But the momentum picks up about halfway through, once everything is clear.

I liked THE BURNING AIR--I love Erin Kelly's style and her flawed-but-interesting characters, reminiscent of my favorite female Brit writers: Ruth Rendell, Tana French, Morag Joss, etc. But, to be honest, I'd have to rank this 3rd in order of how much I like her 3 books so far. The other 2 are more intimate, with smaller casts and more straightforward stories. Still, I'll eagerly await any new book she writes. If you haven't read Erin Kelly yet, you should definitely try her--but I suggest reading the 3 books in order of publication.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Regina on February 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
There are no spoilers in this review and I keep my comments very neutral, as I think it is important going into this novel to not know too much. So if you have not yet read this book, you can safely read on!

I am a lover of the twisted, dark but beautiful psychological thriller -- The Secret History by Donna Tartt, In the Woods by Tana French, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, The Likeness by Tana French, Broken Harbour by Tana French. So I have been meaning to read Erin Kelly for awhile. The Burning Air did not disappoint. It is a solid psychological thriller that kept me guessing, worried and on the edge of my seat. While not as beautiful and dense as a Tana French novel and not as twisted and disturbing as a Gillian Flynn novel, The Burning Air is a good read.

Where The Burning Air succeeds is in the portrayal of familial relationships. There are the siblings, the mother/child relationship, the husband/wife relationship and these relationships are shown as they grow or change overtime. The interaction of the sisters and brother was so real, so enviable that I wish I could step in and join them as they talked, laughed and ate. Ms. Kelly did not fail in creating a family that I could imagine envying myself -- so I could see why someone stuck on the outside of their dynamic would be jealous.

There is cruelty and violence in this book. It wouldn't be a good psychological thriller without that. Ms. Kelly slowly builds her villain in a believable way -- with layers of complex interactions. In the end I sympathized with the villain, but not enough to want the villain to be saved.

So who should read this novel? Readers who enjoy psychological thrillers rooted in family dynamics. Readers who enjoy books set in England and the countryside.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BBBongo on June 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I could not put this book down once I got into it. It does start out a bit slow and I was confused by the introduction of all the characters at once...but when I look back, I think that was how the author wanted the reader to be...thrown off balance. It was like the slow ascent on the first hill of a roller coaster...and then you hit the top of the hill for a thrilling and non-stop ride for the rest of the read. I was off balance for the rest of the novel, picking up pieces of the truth a little at a time along the way. A very compelling and enjoyable read! I will certainly read more from this author!
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