cover image Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

Jeffery Deaver, William Jefferies. Pocket Books, $7.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-671-04751-1

Edgar Award-nominated Deaver (Bloody River Blues, etc.) exposes the brutal side of the Big Apple as John Pellam, a former Hollywood location scout, takes to the streets of Hell's Kitchen to film a documentary. Pellam is on his way to check on one of his interviewees, an elderly woman named Ettie, when he smells smoke and sees flames engulfing Ettie's tenement. Unfortunately, Pellam can't get near her fifth floor apartment, and she jumps out the window to land on a pile of trash bags. Pellam soon finds that Ettie is the prime suspect in the arson; she's kept in prison after another resident dies of injuries suffered in the fire. In an attempt to exonerate Ettie and uncover the true culprit who has been lighting fires around the city, Pellam ends up talking to some unnecessarily grouchy detectives, fire investigators and local thugs. Despite the ethnic mix of characters that populate this gritty mystery, readers may find that some of the details are overly gruesome (e.g., the arsonist's description of burning bodies) and Pellam's character is lacking in charisma. In addition, his extreme dedication to this one old woman merely because he's interviewed her seems less than plausible. (Feb.) Forecast: It's notable that this is an original Deaver novel, a fresh addition to a series that's been reprinted by Pocket and was written before the author became a near-household name with his Lincoln Rhyme novels. With Deaver's name on the cover, and with booksellers explaining to fans that it's a new item, the book should score big.