“The scream is louder than the fire and pierces his flesh and bone like a sharp knife. The scream belongs to his mother,” Vincent Zandri wrote in the introduction of “Everything Burns,” his latest novel, to be released Feb. 1. The chilling psychological thriller begins with a detailed and realistic house fire that the main character, Reece, and his family are trapped in. Immediately, the reader is placed in the position of 10-year-old Reece, listening to the sheer horror of his mother being engulfed by flames. Although his father saves him from the fire, he is unable to reach Reece’s other two brothers. They stand together on the front lawn watching the house with their family inside burn to the ground. The heart-breaking and gut-wrenching novel reveals that Reece’s mother caused the fire by smoking in bed. “She didn’t mean to start it … but now she’s killed them all,” Reece’s father cries out as the two watch the flames lick up the remnants of the house. The tone of the novel is set in the first six pages: despair, heartbreak and the obsession to fight fire with fire.
The novel begins its first chapter with Reece in the present day. The fire he witnessed as a child has scorched him in more ways than one. The story focuses on the relationship of Reece and his ex-wife, but current lover, Lisa, and their eight-year-old daughter, Anna. While the story is told in the first person, the narrator recalls moments from his past that haunt him in his everyday life. The tragic fire took away Reece’s loved ones and replaced it with an obsession to start fires. Flickering in the back of his mind at all times is a flame that Reece cannot put out. He desires to watch things burn and feel the satisfaction and power of the flames. After two nearly fatal arson attempts, Reece finds himself in the mental ward twice, trying to overcome his tremendous obsession with fire. The story flashes to different moments in which Reece’s obsession consumed him, such as when he tries to light his ex-wife’s house on fire out of jealousy and rage that she found a new lover.
The most interesting part of this novel is how the author portrays Reece’s character and digs deep into his mind to show how the fire changed him. Zandri’s writing is realistic, thought-provoking and dynamic. The struggle of Reece to be a successful novelist, father and husband is the most gripping feature of the story. Although I wanted Reece to heal his wounds and move on, his obsession with pyromania is described so eloquently that it felt as if the fires were happening right before my eyes, making me want to experience them more. Zandri’s detailed focus on Reece’s insane obsessions and anxieties are so life-like that the reader is put inside his skin, wondering what his next move is going to be. To find out what happens to Reece, his family and his addiction to fire, pick up a copy of “Everything Burns” by Zandri. You’ll find yourself engulfed not only in flames but also in the thrilling mind of a man who craves to watch everything in sight burn.