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PYRO by Earl Emerson Kirkus Star


by Earl Emerson

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 2004
ISBN: 0-345-46288-2
Publisher: Ballantine

A veteran firefighter faces his unwilling kinship with the sociopaths who make his professional life so burdensome.

Paul Wolff knows fire-starters are “a breed apart—the lonely, the loony, the lost.” What tortures him is how much of that description fits Paul Wolff, who’s certainly lonely and lost, and maybe at times loony; there’s that kind of violence in him. At 10, he suffered a series of emotional blows. The first and heaviest was the mysterious death of his father in an arson fire, a death that plunged his mother into despair and chronic drunkenness. Some months later, he saw her live-in boyfriend murder her and, in turn, get shot and killed, and his own 13-year-old brother sent to Seattle’s State Penitentiary for the shooting. Now, like his father before him, Paul is a lieutenant in the Seattle FD, where he enjoys a double-edged reputation as an aggressive, highly skilled firefighter tagged “a badass” by departmental brass when he decked a boorish battalion chief. When Seattle is suddenly plagued by an upsurge in deliberately set fires, Paul finds himself battling a remorseless enemy, his family history, and ultimately himself.

Everything works in this engrossing story of a good man’s redemptive struggle to believe in his own worth. Emerson has done fine work before (Into the Inferno, 2003, etc.), but this is his best and shouldn’t be missed.