Out of the Ashes follows Samantha Newsom. Sam is 35-years old and works as a nurse in NYC. She hasn’t had an easy life, filled with early trauma that has had lasting repercussions.
When Sam was 13, her family was murdered and their home set ablaze. Sam escaped harmed, as she was at a friend’s house that night for a sleepover, but the rest of her family, her Mom, Dad and baby sister were not that lucky.
Sam was taken in by family after the tragedy, but her life was no longer filled with love, or warm relationships. Particularly, tenuous was her relationship with her Aunt Mitch. The two butted heads something awful.
Needless to say, Sam was eager to leave her small town of Carney, New York, behind when she got old enough. She’s rarely gone back since.
She still keeps in contact with her Uncle Gil though and when he dies, he leaves Sam his house, hoping she’ll keep it. Return to her roots.
Sam doesn’t want anything to do with Carney. The mystery of who killed her family was never solved, in large part due to the actions of local law enforcement. She doesn’t want to be reminded of all that.
When Sam is contacted by an Investigator, Travis Meacham, who has been assigned the cold case though, she sees a glimmer of hope for finding the truth.
Meacham reports he has a fresh lead. A prison inmate who claims that he saw Sam’s baby sister, Lyndsay, being removed from the home before it burned.
Could her sister be alive? Was she kidnapped, not murdered?
She needs to take care of her Uncle’s house anyway, it’s the perfect excuse to return to Carney. While she’s there, Sam plans to do some digging of her own.
Sam’s determined to get the answers she deserves about the night that shattered her life forever. With Meacham’s help, she just may be able to solve this decades old mystery.
I really enjoyed this Adult Debut from Kara Thomas. It’s the type of gritty Crime Fiction I tend to enjoy, the kind that feels a bit Hillybilly Noir, for lack of a better term.
The title of this book fits it to a tee. Sam literally feels like a phoenix rising from the ashes. She’s been through some things, it’s definitely had an impact on her adult life, but I felt like throughout this story, she grows and is sort of able to rebuild herself.
I loved Sam as a main character. This story is told entirely through her perspective and I appreciated that choice by Thomas. It felt fitting with the nature of this story.
I love the trope of a character leaving their small town in the dust and then returning many years later to investigate something that happened in the past. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what this is.
Out of the Ashes is a slow-burn, but I didn’t mind. Overall, I felt it easy to get swept up in the story. There’s a lot of drama in the town and with Sam’s remaining family.
At times I struggled a little trying to keep up with the dynamics between them all, but I feel like for the most part, it was really well done.
There is one really powerful family in the town, they own a large farm that employees a lot of people, and Sam and her family are quite involved with them. They definitely added a sinister, dangerous tone to the narrative.
The majority of the story is fairly bleak. There’s not a lot to be jazzed, or happy about, but honestly, there shouldn’t be. It’s not that kind of story.
The town is floundering, drugs have had a huge impact, like in many small towns in America. The locals seem a bit desperate and suspicious of outsiders.
They definitely view Sam as an outsider at this point. She’s been gone too long, has a fancy education and a solid career.
I felt for her. The jarring nature of her return to her hometown. That’s always something I enjoy reading about. I’ve been in that position, so find it easy to relate to. When I do visit my hometown, it’s like a completely different world.
There were some twists in this I didn’t see coming and I did like how Thomas continued to build the tension throughout. She also allowed Sam to gain strength and confidence as the story progresses. Sam’s a bit of a badass.
The conclusion almost brought me to tears. I was stunned. It was wrapped up really well. I’m impressed with Thomas’s ease of transitioning into the Adult Thriller genre. I hope she continues to write YA Thrillers too though, because she is one of my favorite authors in that space.
Look at you being all multi-talented, Kara Thomas!
Thank you to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I think this is a great effort for an Adult Debut.
I definitely recommend this one for fans of dark, gritty Crime Fiction.