Staircase, Washington, village fire-chief and acting sheriff Mac Fontana (Black Hearts and Slow Dancing) at first believes that the poisoning of one of his firefighters was accidental, then thinks it was caused by a burst of homicidal jealousy (the victim was flamboyantly cavorting with the oh-so-easy Wanda Sheridan), and finally comes to understand--when two more firemen are killed--that someone has a vendetta working against the department. But who, and why? The answer lies in a January fire-call two years back, which was answered by the now-dead men and an as-yet-unidentified cohort. The fire yielded up several million dollars' worth of cocaine belonging to the Ereckson syndicate, and the men, individually, tried to work a deal with Ereckson: return of the drags for big bucks. But despite the involvement of Ereckson and his thugs--as well as threats to his own life, run-ins with beefy female politico Mo Costigan, and an interlude of suspecting the fireman-husband of his platonic lover, the one-handed Rainy (she lost the other to her husband's abuse)--Mac ultimately narrows the respects down to one: the person the fire-station dog doesn't bark at (shades of Sherlock Holmes). A gritty combination of hard-boiled action, small-town quirkiness, and offbeat tenderness (Mac's wistful romance; his care for son Brendan). Mac deserves a reading, and there are ample reasons here to start forming the Staircase firehouse fan club.