Did you read A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins and want to discuss? How did A Slow Fire Burning end? Need a plot summary or a character list? Welcome to my Discussion of Spoilers for A Slow Fire Burning!
Table of Contents: Spoilers for A Slow Fire Burning
Character List for A Slow Fire Burning
Laura Kilbride – had a traumatic brain injury as a child and was with the victim the night he died.
Philip – Laura’s father
Deidre- Laura’s stepmother
Daniel Sutherland – murdered on his boat
Miriam Lewis- lives on a houseboat near Daniel.
Carla Myerson – Daniel’s aunt, sister of his mother Angela
Theo – Carla’s ex husband
Jeremy- the man who abducted Miriam when she was a teenager
Plot Summary for A Slow Fire Burning
The narrative also includes excerpts that I think are supposed to be from Theo’s book, which is based on Miriam’s real experience. I am not including these in the summary. In short, Miriam and her friend were abducted at age 15 while hitchhiking. The man took them to a house, and Miriam escaped but her friend was murdered.
As the book begins, Laura is cleaning blood off herself. She calls her father for help but her stepmother intervenes and cuts her off. It’s unclear exactly what happened to Laura, but she has the watch of someone named Daniel.
On a Sunday morning, Miriam, who lives on a houseboat, discovers a body on a boat moored near hers. She tells the police that an older woman visited him recently. She doesn’t tell the police that a girl named Laura also visited and must have dropped her key near the body. Miriam takes the key home with her.
The police notify Carla and Theo, Daniel’s aunt and uncle, about Daniel’s death. Theo says that very early on the morning the body was discovered he saw a girl near Daniel’s boat with blood all over her.
The police show up at Laura’s and ask her about the bandage on her arm. She says she lost her key and cut herself breaking into her flat. She claims to have gone a date with Daniel on Friday. She says they slept together, and then fought. The police tell her that he was stabbed to death sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning.
Laura denies killing Daniel. The police find Daniel’s watch in Laura’s bathroom and take her to the police station for questioning. They mention that she was recently charged with stabbing another person with a fork. Laura has had issues since she was hit by a car at age ten. and left with a traumatic brain injury. Since then she has problems with memory, anger management and impulse control.
Irene is looking through some books of Angela’s that Carla gave her. Irene and Angela were next door neighbors and used to swap thrillers. Irene hears the news report on Daniel’s murder and remembers a day she got locked out of her house. She went over to Angela’s and found Laura there. Laura had just found her mother Angela, dead after a fall. Irene remembers seeing Angela talking to a man with a dog in the street, and she was crying.
Theo has a dog, Dixon, who has gone missing. Theo is a writer. Theo and Carla’s son, Ben, was tragically killed at age three after he fell off a balcony at Angela’s house. Angela had been drinking and left Daniel, age eight, in charge. Their marriage was never the same.
The police sent Laura home. The laundromat where she works fires her for not showing up.
Theo shows up at the bookstore where Miriam works and tells her to stay away from his family. She threatens to call the police. Miriam had filed a copyright infringement claim against Theo after he read her manuscript and then wrote a book with a very similar plot. She calls the police and tells them that she saw Carla and Daniel arguing. Then she pulls out Laura’s keys and Dixon’s dog collar.
The police ask Carla for a DNA sample. Carla tells the police that after her son’s death, she saw Carla and Daniel behind Theo’s back. Theo also has to give a sample.
Laura goes to see Irene and does her shopping. When she’s passing Carla’s house, she sees the door open and steals Carla’s tote bag.
Carla remembers her sister Angela, who confessed to being the one who left the study door open so that Ben fell.
Theo goes to Angela’s to look for Carla. Irene tells him that she saw Theo and Angela arguing shortly before Angela died. Theo recalls that he went to see Angela to tell her that Daniel had asked him for money. Irene tells Carla that Theo came to talk to Angela before she died.
Miriam befriends Laura, who tells her that her mother married the man who hit her with his car. He’d been having an affair with her mother and, one day when he was over, they realized Laura was about to come home. He rushed out and accidentally hit her with his car. He spent four months in jail. Miriam tells Laura that she thinks Carla had something to do with Daniel’s death. Miriam recalls being there when her friend was murdered and having to break a window to escape.
When Theo went to talk to Angela about Daniel, she showed him a sketch Daniel had done of Carla, naked. They argued, with Theo telling her that she was responsible for his son’s death and her own son becoming a sociopath.
Miriam catches Laura stealing some earrings and finding her own key, the one Miriam took. Miriam also gives her a copy of her manuscript.
Theo admits to Carla that he went to see Angela. Laura admits to Irene that she stole Carla’s tote bag of jewelry. Laura gives Miriam’s manuscript to Irene. Irene reads it and thinks it sounds familiar. She realizes it reminds her of Theo’s book, which she has in the box of books Carla gave her. In the book (which belonged to Angela) she finds Daniel’s drawing of a naked Carla.
Carla recalls that the year before Angela died, Daniel turned up on her doorstep, upset. She let him stay the night but awoke to find him sketching her naked. Then after Angela’s death, she found some letters written by Angela to Daniel’s father, saying how much she hated Daniel.
On the night Daniel died, she went to his boat and found a notebook with drawings of her, which she took.
The police tell Theo they have arrested Laura. Someone comes to his door.
The police tell Laura that Daniel’s blood was found on her clothes. She says she bit him. They produce the murder weapon, a knife, and Laura says that it’s not hers. Also, she tells them Miriam could have planted it, since she took Laura’s key.
Carla saw a graphic novel Daniel illustrated about the day Ben died. First, fictional Daniel finds that his cousin Ben has ruined Daniel’s drawings. Then he walks in on his mother having sex with a man. Then, he lures his cousin to the balcony with a toy truck and watches him fall to his death.
Irene brings one of Daniel’s notebooks to show Carla. It’s the graphic novel. Theo throws it in the fire.
Miriam was the one who killed Theo’s dog. (Ugh – why?)
The police bring Theo in for questioning. The knife was his. Theo tells them he last saw it the day Daniel died. He threw it into the bushes after he murdered Daniel. He says that Angela told him that Daniel and Carla were sleeping together. The police ask why both the murder weapon and Theo’s scarf was found in Laura’a flat, and Daniel says that Laura must have picked it up. he denies planting the items at Laura’s.
Who Killed Daniel in A Slow Fire Burning?
The night Daniel died, Carla picked up Theo’s kitchen knife and one of his scarves and walked to Daniel’s to discuss the graphic novel. She heard angry voices and saw a girl leave the boat. She stabbed Daniel with the knife. She then showered and changed her clothes.
How Does A Slow Fire Burning End?
Laura is attacked in prison and taken to the hospital.
Carla comes to see Irene, who gives Carla back the jewelry that Laura stole from her. Irene tells Carla that she knows Theo didn’t kill Daniel, Carla did.
Theo confronts Miriam. He thinks she’s been sending him letters, accusing him of stealing her manuscript, but then he realizes the letters are from Jeremy, the man who abducted Miriam and her friend Lorraine.
Carla goes to prison for Daniel’s murder.
Miriam’s kidnapper, Jeremy, is found dead in a houseboat.
Spoiler Discussion for A Slow Fire Burning
What did you think of this one? It was definitely a slow burn. I didn’t mind that, though I wished for a little more tension and suspense.
I wasn’t entirely clear on the somewhat creepy relationship between Carla and Daniel. Was he just a really disturbed person who fantasized about his aunt, or did they really have a romantic relationship?
Who killed Jeremy? Theories?
Did Daniel really lure Ben to his death or was that aspect of his graphic novel just a manifestation of his guilt?
Did anyone else feel like this reminded them a little bit of The Girl on the Train?
Both have an unreliable narrator (Rachel and Laura) who we think might be the murderer. Both feature a small group of people with a tangled past, the loss of a child or the inability to have a child, an alcoholic character (Rachel and Angela.)
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