cover image Fire Season

Fire Season

Leyna Krow. Viking, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-29960-9

Krow’s evocative debut novel (after the collection I’m Fine, but You Appear to Be Sinking) follows three misfits who prosper in the aftermath of a devastating fire in 1889 Spokane Falls, just before Washington gains statehood. Barton Heydale, 29, is the manager of the only bank within 100 miles; feeling lonesome and disliked, he’s considering ending his life when he sees the fire at Wolfe’s Hotel. In the chaotic aftermath, he enacts a plan to steal from the bank. He later runs into Roslyn Beck, a sex worker he’d engaged at Wolfe’s on the day of the fire, and invites her to stay with him. Barton plans to escape town with the money and Roslyn, but she and the money disappear. Then Quake Auchenbaucher arrives, identifying himself as a federal arson inspector to the police, who have taken Barton into custody on charges of usury and counterfeiting. Quake, a savvy con man, pins the fire on Barton and convinces the officers all the bank’s money is fake, and that he must transport it to the Treasury. After a series of twists, the three outlaws all converge. Krow pulls off a convincing last gasp of the Wild West with an appealing array of charlatans and schemers. The prose is marvelous, and Krow shrewdly shows via Barton, who pretends to be a “man in a fine, if not enviable state,” how the riskiest con is against the self. Readers will be captivated. Agent: Sarah Bedingfield, Levine Greenberg Literary. (July)