Visceral action, quirky repartee, and gritty firehouse detail are efficiently blended in this debut appearance by reluctant cop Mac Fontana--who has gone West after a double trauma: his young wife's death; and his semi-accidental killing (while a fire-department investigator) of a depraved child-abuser. So now widower Mac is living with son Brendan in Staircase, Washington--where he's content to be a village fire-chief. But, persuaded to become acting sheriff and investigate the disappearance of Staircase resident Steve Zajac, Mac soon finds Zajac gruesomely dead: tied to a tree, beaten, tortured, stabbed. And all clues lead to Zajac's career as a firefighter in nearby Seattle. Did Zajac have evidence of a Seattle five-chief's corruption? Why did he pick a fight with the local version of Donald Trump? And why is Mac being trailed by a band of local thugs? Before the unsurprising answers emerge, Mac is near-fatally stuffed into a fuel-oil tank, seduced by Zajac's flaky girlfriend, and forced to deal with some nasty arson. The basic plot here is thoroughly familiar; so is Mac's tough/tender, haunted persona. But Emerson (Fat Tuesday) adds enough salt and charm--including an ugly mutt that eventually wins Mac over--to make this a solid entry for readers partial to a mix of rough-stuff and offbeat ambience.