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Children of Fire by Paul C.W. Beatty

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Can Josiah solve the puzzle before more people die, or is he out of his depth?

In 1841, at the height of the industrial revolution in the North West of England, Josiah Ainscough returns from his travels and surprises everyone by joining the Stockport Police Force, rather than following his adopted father’s footsteps into the Methodist ministry.

While Josiah was abroad, five men died in an explosion at the Furness Vale Powder Mill. Was this an accident or did the Children of Fire, a local religious community, have a hand in it. As Josiah struggles to find his vocation, his investigation into the Children of Fire begins. But his enquiries are derailed by the horrific crucifixion of the community’s leader.

Now Josiah must race against time to solve the puzzle of the violence loose in the Furness Vale before more people die. This is complicated by his affections for Rachael, a leading member of the Children of Fire, and the vivacious Aideen Hayes, a visitor from Ireland.

Can Josiah put together the pieces of the puzzle, or is he out of his depth? Children of Fire won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Prize for 2017.


I always adhere to the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but I have to admit the cover is what intrigued me first about this book. And after reading the book which has a mysterious and ominous tale, the cover reflects well with the storyline.

In 1841, Constable Josiah Ainscough’s first big case is to go undercover to find out some information on Brother Elijah Bradshawe, leader of a religious sect called Children of Fire who is suspected “stirring up discontent” about the reopening of a black powder mill that hires children to work in it. After only a few days, Brother Elijah is found dead on a cross with a placard that says blasphemer and Josiah’s case become more twisted and deadly than he expected. 

There are many well-developed characters with interesting backgrounds. For example, Josiah, as the main character, is full of surprises with the loss of his parents as a young child, his life with Reverend Cooksley and his wife, his travels to foreign lands and his unfortunate past secrets. Rachael is also a strong character with her horrible past and unfailing faith in God.  

I was pleasantly surprised by the historical depiction of life in the 1840s. The descriptions of how black powder charges were made are fascinating and the twists and turns in the mystery were surprising with a satisfying conclusion. If you like an original historical mystery set in the British countryside, I recommend you give this story a try.

Thank you to Mr. Beatty for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.


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Paul CW Beatty is an unusual combination of a novelist and a research scientist. Having worked for many years in medical research in the UK NHS and Universities, a few years ago he took an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University emerging with a distinction.

His latest novel, Children of Fire, is a Victorian murder mystery set in 1841 at the height of the industrial revolution. It won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Award in November 2017 and is published by The Book Guild Ltd. 

Paul lives near Manchester in the northwest of England. Children of Fire is set against the hills of the Peak District as well as the canals and other industrial infrastructure of the Cottonopolis know as the City of Manchester.

Follow Paul on Twitter.


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