An incendiary thriller featuring the return of Birmingham, Alabama, detective Cooper Devereaux (False Positive, 2015).
As Tyler Shaw watches the fire he’s set, he sees the souls of sinners. He considers himself a genius, a Michelangelo of arson. School fires are his current specialty, though he may later expand his repertoire. Cooper is one of the investigators interviewing virtually everyone connected with Birmingham’s school system—so many that “evidently you’re not cool if you’re not a suspect.” There’s even a false confession. “We need to catch this arsonist,” Capt. Emrich helpfully demands, and Cooper is working hard. Orphaned at age 6, he grew up among the “dregs of society" and made a living by ripping off the criminals, which led to a checkered career as a cop—“me and trouble with the job are old friends,” he says. His long-separated ex-girlfriend Alexandra is raising their 7-year-old, Nicole, a “sweet little daughter” who secretly draws disturbing pictures and brutalizes her dolls. Birmingham Tribune reporter Diane McKinzie is also investigating the fires while raising her 15-year-old son, Daniel. The lad is a whining, insulting smartass who says “You’re the worst mother in the world.” He knows his destiny is to become the century’s greatest physicist, and Mom isn’t nearly attentive and supportive enough to suit him. Daniel is just too smart, having been “disqualified from an important science competition because his entry was too advanced for the idiot teachers to comprehend.” Oh, please. Then Diane deliberately burns herself but doesn’t flinch. Tension escalates as investigators find skeletons under the floor of a burned-out middle school. The story zips along, with many chapters only a page or two long. It’s chockablock with disturbed characters and one too many self-described geniuses, but Cooper is solid—decent, flawed, and entertaining.
A quick, enjoyable entry in the series.