What is this about?: Caleb is drawn into a complicated case that takes him to Resurrection Bay, and a into an explosive case that is tearing families apart there — the victim’s, his and his estranged wife Kat’s family as well.
What else is this about?: Family, race and the things that families apart.
Blurb: Deaf since early childhood, Caleb Zelic is used to meeting life head-on. Now, he’s struggling just to get through the day. His best mate is dead, his ex-wife, Kat, is avoiding him, and nightmares haunt his waking hours.
But when a young woman is killed, after pleading for his help in sign language, Caleb is determined to find out who she was. The trail leads Caleb back to his hometown, Resurrection Bay. The town is on bushfire alert, and simmering with racial tensions. As Caleb delves deeper, he uncovers secrets that could ruin any chance of reuniting with Kat, and even threaten his life. Driven by his own demons, he pushes on. But who is he willing to sacrifice along the way?
‘I love the world that Emma Viskic has created, in all its complexity and in all its truth’ – Christos Tsiolkas
‘Emma Viskic is a terrific, gutsy writer with great insight into the murkiness of both criminal and heroic motivations’ – Emily Maguire
The second Caleb Zelic thriller from the author of Resurrection Bay – Winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction, and Davitt Awards for Best Novel, Best Debut and Reader’s Choice.
So you’re not reading this book right now because it’s only being released on 1 August, so hint hint. But that gives you just enough time to pick up the first in this series if you so wish, though full disclosure, I always felt I had enough time to do so before this one came out, and well, that didn’t work out so well because ha, here’s book 2! And also here’s an interview with Emma Viskic for some insight into Caleb.
BUT, here’s the thing: while there’s some overlap, there’s enough here for readers to know what matters: how Caleb got his heart ripped out by his former partner and this book is about the aftermath of that — for him and his wife Kat.
Caleb and family
When the book opens, Caleb is sort of in a holding pattern, trying to figure out what to do with his life and his business now that his partner, Frankie, is on the run and in a host of trouble. He says he doesn’t care, but he does. He’s also waiting on Kat, his estranged wife, who was caught up in the case in book 1, and suffered for it. She’s taken off, and he misses her — a deep ache that’s clear in every moment he talks about her.
So when a case comes into his life in the form of a woman, who dies minutes after meeting him, he dives into it, in part I think to forget what happened in book one. Except, it takes him back to Resurrection Bay, to his hometown and a case that involves family — his, Kat’s and the woman that was killed.
By the end of the book, you’ll find (family) relationships fractured, and some mended, but more than anything I found myself with a deep appreciation for how Emma Viskic weaves these relationships together around Caleb, showing him as a man who cares deeply, even if he is absolute shit at showing it.
Caleb and Ant and Kat
So, the mysterious woman and her case is only half the goodness in this story — what kept me engrossed is the characterisation and focus on Caleb and his relationships — especially with his brother Ant. There’s enough in the book for you to understand what lies beyond their banter and the shorthand of brothers who’ve survived too much together.
Caleb is ever the gruff older brother, lost in his own head and his own pain to see Ant as a whole — but the moments we see Caleb recognise how far his former drug addict brother has come, and what he’s asking of him are illuminating. Caleb loves deeply, even though he’s not going to show it easily: Ant understands that, but Kat wants more than that for Caleb.
It’s clear that Kat and Caleb love each other, despite their separation. Kat worries for Caleb and he for her, and her family, in a town that is being pulled apart by racism. I don’t know how big a part her Indigenous roots played in the first book, but here it’s clear how much Caleb cares for her family in this. They give a better picture of who Caleb is as well, as he tries to help and respect the distance they’ve asked for in some moments. They love him, they’ll take of him when he needs it, and they’ll kick his ass too.
I know I’m waxing on about Caleb, Ant and Kat, but they’re such a fundamental part who Caleb is, I couldn’t help but be caught up in them. And Ant, his brother especially — there’s so much there that’s going to make for good fodder for future books, I cannot wait.
When I first heard about the series, I was caught by the fact that Caleb is deaf, and wondered how Emma Viskic would portray this in the story and here’s the thing: it is seamlessly weaved into the story and Caleb is perfectly fine with being deaf, it’s the rest of the world that forgets he needs to lip read, or talk too slowly and appear ridiculous as a result, and mostly just irritate him.
If anything, it’s his emotional … constipation that holds him back, keeps him from Kat and from seeing he needs help to be able to deal with what happened in book 1.
And Fire Came Down is a gripping introduction to Caleb’s world, and to a PI who guards his heart fiercely, but gives it completely to those he cares most about. It’s a thoroughly character-driven story, exploring the intricacies of family and race in Australia. And dammit. The wait for book 3 is going to drive me nuts.