Flamekeeper, TW Lawless

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

FLAMEKEEPER is the 5th book in the Peter Clancy series, and the first not to be set around the mean streets of Melbourne, within the context of The Truth Newspaper. A real-life sensationalist weekly paper that liked nothing better than personal scandal and a spot of stirring of the pot (some of us are likely to still remember The Truth - it folded from memory around 1995).

Clancy, and his mate Stella Reimers, are good old fashioned newspaper hacks, although Reimers has risen to the lofty heights of news editor of her hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Daily, which sees Clancy in the US, appointed the paper's chief crime reporter. He's sick to death of crime reporting, and wants to do more hard-hitting investigative work. Reimers receiving "his" Pulitzer prize, for a story of his making, rankles a bit, but these two are also old friends. Capable of even sharing a living abode (platonic) for a while, even though there's tension aplenty between them - not just because of the Pulitzer mind you. There's tension aplenty all round really - the staff of the San Francisco Daily haven't quite seen anything like Stella Reimers before, and her my way or the bloody highway toots sweet style rankles, as does Clancy's sod it, get the story and stop faffing about approach.

With this book set in the early 1970's, and the move to the US, there's a little bit of a different feel to FLAMEKEEPER than there was in the earlier books. Clancy's a tiny bit of a fish out of water, and it's fascinating to see the way that newspaper's chased stories and broke news, pre-internet and the 24-hour news cycle that plagues our existence these days. The investigation that Clancy finds himself in for this novel follows a series of unsolved murders and hate crimes against the gay population, centred around the worst of the AIDS crisis and the rise of one of those awful evangelist churches.

As the tension and the threat around the investigation rises, the tension in Clancy and Reimers friendship follows suit, and everything starts to feel like for once in his life Clancy's in way too deep, with no way out.

If you're new to the Peter Clancy series, then FLAMEKEEPER will work as an entry point, although you will find yourself wanting to go back to the start, with a quick reminder that this is a new setting for this series. It's always been one of those series that feels like it deserves a wider following, and interest though. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Peter Clancy (although I hasten to add that feeling does not come from any sense of affection for The Truth). Perhaps I'm old enough now to enjoy a bit of nostalgia.

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Peter Clancy is in the US to see Stella Reimers receive a Pulitzer for the story he uncovered. As the newly-appointed news editor at her hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Daily, Stella convinces Peter to become its chief crime reporter. But Peter is tired of crime reporting, and wants to do more serious investigative journalism—hoping to earn a Pulitzer in his own name.

Using crime reporting to open doors, Peter is soon using his new informants and SFPD contacts to investigate multiple leads that might result in that big story—will it be the unsolved serial killings, the hate crimes against San Fran’s gay population, or the dodgy goings-on at a new evangelist church?

As his boss, Stella wants Peter to leave some stories in the past—including her own past. When the death threats start coming in from ‘the Flamekeeper’, Peter is more determined than ever to join the dots. There will indeed be a day of reckoning, but not the one the Flamekeeper has planned—not if Peter Clancy has anything to do with it.

Review Flamekeeper, TW Lawless
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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