Set during 1960s Britain, where Corporal Punishment is still an enforceable sentence for murder, Frank Dyson goes on the run after unintentionally taking the life of a stranger. Taking his young son and faithful dog with him, he escapes the city of Manchester and under the cover of darkness follows the route of the main train line to Chester. By the morning, a full-scale murder investigation is under way, naming Frank as public enemy number one.
Events become more complicated when he is forced to abduct Sally, a young girl who recognises him from a newspaper report. Unbeknownst to Frank, Sally harbours her own secret, one which becomes a crucial part of the fight to survive. With the police hot on his trail, Frank cleverly stay one step ahead but the choices he makes in order to protect his son have dire consequences for them all.
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Sally is an inquisitive young girl who likes to get her hands dirty. So, when the news of a local man Frank Dyson is on the run for murder, her mind goes into detective mode. One afternoon, she sees him walking the fields so secretly tries to follows his movements. Sadly for Sally, she is seen by Frank and held hostage – he can’t afford for people to know his whereabouts.
I was expecting Secret of the Fireflies to house some gruesome hostage style scenarios, what with Sally only being a little girl. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how soft and caring the novel turned out to be. There wasn’t any horrible situations for you to comprehend, more that you felt empathy for the characters and their heartache.
Sally’s parents were well documented showing you, the reader, just how hard it must be for a child to go missing, especially with the added murder investigation to comprehend with. I honestly can’t imagine being in that situation.
The thing I liked most was how Sally, Frank and Frank’s son traveled to places that I grew up in. They visit Chester, a beautiful city in the North West. If you’ve ever visited you’ll know the black-and-white revival architectural screams out to you, you’ve got the River/waterfront and the Roman Walls – what more could you ask for! I always get a little excited when places I know pop up!
During Sally’s ordeal she has an unexpected helping hand from something she can only see – the fireflies. They help guide her away from danger, usually when Sally least expects it. I loved the concept of the guardian angel in the fireflies, but wish that it was elaborated more, they only made a brief appearance within the novel and I wished they’d popped up and supported her more, but that’s only one niggle from this amazing debut by J.G. Nicholls.
Secret of the Fireflies is a heartwarming story that you will most definitely read in just one sitting.