A veteran arson investigator tells stories of his investigations into a wide variety of firestarters.
Nordskog (“Torchered” Minds, 2011) has worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for nearly 30 years, including 16 years in its Arson-Explosives Detail. In his second volume of case studies, he places his bad guys into a wide range of categories, including Mission Men, Whackjobs and Wildmen, and Isolated Idiots, among others. Some arsonists are blatantly crazy, while others are driven by hatred, revenge or an irresistible fascination with flames. Some get a kick out of seeing the results of their mischief on the news, while others are motivated by compulsions they can hardly explain to themselves, let alone to arresting officers. The majority of these cases take place in LA County’s Foothill Division, as that’s Nordskog’s beat, but he makes the point that these specific cases are typical of firebugs everywhere. A few stories are chilling, such as one about a control-freak arsonist who terrorized an entire neighborhood by attempting to murder at least two families that he felt were impinging on his private space. The stories of firebugs who are also firefighters are particularly disturbing. However, one tale, about a wannabe tough guy who hired the world’s most inept enforcer to kill the man he (wrongly) suspected of sleeping with his ex-wife, is frankly hilarious, as Keystone Kops–like investigators missed chance after chance to make an arrest. Overall, the author tells his stories clearly and well, with a minimum of cop-speak.
An enjoyable read for fans of true-crime stories, as well as those seeking insight into arsonists’ psychology.