The Amber Fury
Date Published06 March 2014
Price£ 7.99

The Amber Fury

by Natalie Haynes

Alex is anxious to escape past events, and takes a job as a drama therapist at a pupil referral unit in Edinburgh.  Using her love of Greek tragedy, she slowly gets through to a group of troubled 15-year-olds, but perhaps the children are taking the stories too much to heart.


After the death of her fiancé, Alex Morris needs to get away from everything that reminds her of him in London, so she takes a temporary job as a drama therapist at a pupil referral unit in Edinburgh.

All of the children have been excluded from mainstream schools, many for violence, and at first Alex struggles to get through to them. One small group of 15-year-olds, in particular, has intimidated all of the staff in the unit and Alex despairs of even getting them to stay in her room for a whole lesson.

Alex introduces the group to her beloved Greek tragedy plays and asks them to discuss the dilemmas faced by the characters. Slowly, as Alex reveals a little more of herself to the pupils, they equally respond to her. Wrapped up in her own grief, however, she does not realise how much the teenagers are taking the lessons from the plays to heart and relating the dramas to their own lives, with disastrous consequences.

The story is mainly told by Alex in the first person, supplemented by extracts from a diary kept by Mel, a student who wants to be a journalist. The diary tells the story from the students’ point of view and reveals how they decide to take matters into their own hands. As Alex recalls the events, we learn more about the death of her fiancé, and its effect on her ability to relate to her students.

It is not necessary to know the Greek tragedies to appreciate this book. Enough of the plots are outlined to the reader as they are explained to the students. The author clearly knows and loves them and describes the dilemmas faced by the characters with passion and humour.

This is an unusual crime book. Although crimes are involved, to a large extent it is a book about the relationship between Alex and the students, her struggles to come to terms with the death of her fiancé and their attempts to survive a school system they do not fit into. The Amber Fury is an assured first novel that bodes well for Natalie Haynes’ future.

Reviewed 29 November 2014 by Sylvia Wilson