Francis Cottam, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $23.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-312-28679-8

Cottam's title takes on an ominous double meaning in this unusual debut, when a British firefighter gets caught up in his country's military effort to protect key potential targets during the Blitz. Whisked away from his artillery unit to a clandestine London assignment as the Nazis step up their aerial assault. Jack Finlay is able to secure his assigned buildings, but as he adjusts to the devastated environment, he finds his past put under the microscope. Meanwhile, he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Rebecca Lange, who is the German godchild of his military boss, Major Grey, and the daughter of a famous architect. Finlay is slowly drawn into Grey's murky, secretive world, and he must battle for Rebecca's attention when a brawling Irishman from her past surfaces. The riveting firefighting scenes enhance the story in the early going, but the intensity fades a bit when the focus shifts to subplots involving Rebecca as well as Grey's mysterious past. The dark, insular tone of the novel and Cottam's terse prose add to the sense of menace as the Nazis tighten their noose around London, and Finlay's anxiety increases significantly when his mother is endangered as the bombing spreads to Liverpool and he learns of his brother's death during a submarine attack. Overplotting keeps this novel from achieving its full potential, but the combination of harrowing atmosphere and compelling action scenes suggests that readers should expect good things from Cottam down the line. (Aug. 5)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 08/01/2002
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-7011-6981-7
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-09-928640-0
Open Ebook - 238 pages - 978-1-4482-1067-1
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