Burning Hearts is the first book in the ‘Sanctuary Point Series’ by ‘crime fictionista’ Nike Chillemi. The series takes place in a small American town called Sanctuary Point shortly after World War Two has ended. The action begins almost immediately as the heroine, a young seamstress named Erica Brogna, is caught in a house fire. Her friend and employer is also caught in the burning building. Lorne Kincade, a war veteran who is new to town, happens along on his motorcycle and helps rescue Erica’s friend. Unfortunately, the young war widow dies at the hospital. It soon becomes apparent that the woman was murdered and the fire was set on purpose. Thus begins the mystery. Who would want to kill an innocent widow?
As the drama unfolds and various suspects emerge, Erica and Lorne find themselves drawn to one another. Yet their attraction hardly has time to blossom, it seems, as even the ‘heroes’ are not exempt from suspicion – or danger. With lots of twists and turns, Chillemi weaves a tale of intrigue, action, and of course, love. There is also a strong faith element in the book, but it is presented in a very natural, unobtrusive way that seems totally contemporaneous for the times.
One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the authentic tone. Set in the 1940s, the characters react and speak as one would imagine. The dialogue sounds genuine for the period and the descriptions of their clothing, food, pastimes, vehicles, and even the scenery are precise, vivid and well researched, without seeming expository. As well, the characters are very well rounded, with just enough history to make them real. I read book two before reading this one, and although it stood alone quite nicely, I came to appreciate the characters even more after reading book one. I highly recommend Burning Hearts (and Ms. Chillemi’s subsequent books) to those who like a good old fashioned crime story with just enough romance to make it sweet.