Past memories trouble a young man in DiFrancesco’s (Unholy Whispers, 2015) latest mystery.
Life is good for Trevor Adams. After recently leaving behind his law career, he’s on the verge of opening an antique store with his beautiful girlfriend, Donna. The fly in the ointment is Trevor’s newfound and debilitating fear of fire. Trevor grudgingly agrees to see a hypnotherapist and attempt to discover the root of this phobia, despite his clear dislike of anything related to the supernatural (or therapy). Outside his sessions, Trevor is busy turning an old fire station into his upcoming antique store. In the attic of the station, he discovers Engine 24’s logbook and a fireman’s journal from 1939. His interest in the firemen and their daily lives becomes obsessive, and he finds himself slipping away from the present and spending more and more time in the past. He falls behind in work and jeopardizes his relationship. DiFrancesco sets up a double, yet related, mystery: what is at the root of Trevor’s pyrophobia and why is he so strongly pulled into the past? While the premise is mildly intriguing, glimpses into life at a 1930s fire station provide the most enjoyable portions of the narrative. The camaraderie and rough affection the firemen possess for each other come across clearly in the short, often humorous logbook and journal entries. “Lt. Amato had us clean the station,” reads an entry from March 1939. “The station needed a bath. So did Dorsey, incidentally.” Their good humor and bravery are a foil for Trevor, whose judgmental attitude and tendency to smirk render him rather unlikable at times. Donna has the potential to be an interesting character, yet her role is unfortunately limited to hoping for a marriage proposal or ringing her hands over Trevor’s worsening phobia and commitment issues. DiFrancesco ties the threads of past and present together in a tidy, if saccharine, conclusion. The mystery is explained, though the losses of the past nearly outweigh the happy endings of the present.
A so-so mystery novel despite its promising setup.