California Fire and Life

Don Winslow, Author Alfred A. Knopf $23 (352p) ISBN 978-0-679-45431-1
Jack Wade is ""basically a Dalmatian"": when a fire happens he's there. Jack, who works to live and lives to surf, was a sheriff's department fire investigator until he got caught planting evidence in a warehouse arson to protect a witness, and is now the top claims adjuster for California Fire and Life. That means sifting around in the ashes of other people's lives--or in this case, deaths. When Pamela Vale passes out drunk and accidentally burns down the west wing of her Dana Point mansion, along with half a million dollars of her husband's antique furniture, Jack thinks maybe it wasn't an accident. There's no smoke in her lungs, and the smoke from the fire should have been yellow or orange, not the reported blood red, plus the dog was outside. ""People will never burn the pooch,"" Jack knows, and he begins to search through the remains. Winslow (The Death and Life of Bobby Z), who himself worked more than 15 years with L.A. arson investigators, follows Jack through the burned char of the Vale house, where, in the novel's most compelling scene, he tracks down the history of the fire and reads its secrets. Pitted against him is a formidable adversary: Pamela's estranged husband, Daziatnik Valeshin, now known as Nicky Vale, who has survived a Russian prison camp to make himself over into the model of a perfect Southern California gentleman. Jack's investigation is packed with extras--Russian organized crime, faked freeway accidents, a $50 million insurance scam. But Southern California is captured perfectly in all its hyperbolic splendor, its overdeveloped beachfronts, its sudden, mysterious blazes and freeway chills. If the plot contains a few too many contrivances and coincidences, Winslow's knowledge of his subject and his territory, and the narrative's rapid pace, keep the entertainment value at steady flame. 60,000 first printing; simultaneous Random House audio. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 337 pages - 978-0-307-27985-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 416 pages - 978-0-8041-1611-4
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-375-40567-9
Paperback - 337 pages - 978-0-09-923862-1
Open Ebook - 353 pages - 978-0-307-82459-2
Show other formats
FORMATS
Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X