by Stephen Dobyns ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 19, 1983
A few weeks in the life of Frank Lazard, a lieutenant in the Boston Fire Department's Arson Squad--with overlapping cases, moody private-life troubles, and modest drama instead of the crackling melodrama usually found in firefighter fiction. Recently divorced, 38, lonely, and still preoccupied with the firefighting accident that scarred and lamed him, Lazard occasionally drifts into singles bars--and has a purely carnal one-night-stand with the fiancee of one of his colleagues. But the focus here is on his day-to-day grind, his relationships (often edgy) with his Arson Squad buddies. Among the co-workers: plump, dedicated Quaid, the father of a retarded daughter (a touching family sketch) who dotes on Lazard; and abrasive Cassidy, who winds up in the hospital when (with help from Lazard) he tries to track down the criminal who stole his gun. Among the arson-investigations: a bridal-shop burning, engineered by the desperate owner (who, however, died in the process); Lazard's suspicions that a Lebanese ""student"" has been buying homes, setting fires, and collecting insurance--to help fund the PLO. And one principal case threads throughout the novel, bringing Lazard to a point where compassion outweighs duty: there's a huge warehouse fire, with two firemen killed, that was obviously arson (the culprits even blocked the hydrants and provided a false-alarm diversion); Lazard suspects primary insuree Howard Trieger (the husband of Lazard's cousin) of complicity in the crime; but though Trieger's guilty, he's a helpless pawn (his brother has run afoul of the Mob) who's being driven to suicide--and Lazard manages to new tralize the Mob and save Trieger. . . at the risk of appearing to be involved in corruption himself. Dobyns, author of the effectively quiet Charlie Bradshaw mysteries (Saratoga Longshot, Saratoga Swimmer), takes a similar approach here, eschewing both raging-fire action and noisy suspense. So, though grittily detailed with fire/arson specifics (including some grisly investigatory techniques), this is a low-burning, gently authentic mixture of arson detection and character-study: far from riveting (Lazard isn't as sympathetic as he might be), but honest and sturdy.
Pub Date: May 19, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983
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