In McManus’ debut thriller, a blogger whose writing has been tracking an arsonist-turned-killer may be so close to his subject that he becomes a target.
Blogger Danny Kasho is the one who gave the Angeles Arsonist his name, dubbing the unknown individual known for setting wildfires in California. After 10 months of idleness, the arsonist returns, but this time there are five bodies, and it’s clear the arsonist is also a killer, having used a flamethrower to trap the victims in a cave with his latest inferno. Danny may have a scoop when friend Mark Pavelko, a U.S. Forest Service special agent, enlists his help in questioning a person of interest, arson investigator Mike Cruz. As it turns out, Mike suggests that Mark is the arsonist. The killer, meanwhile, following Danny’s blog on CODA.com, may be going after the journalist next. McManus’ thriller keeps a leisurely but engaging pace. Danny, for example, in true-to-life form, has to wait for most of his information, like the fact that the vics were Pepperdine students and there may have been a sixth person, who survived. McManus slowly and deliberately builds suspense, providing readers with the killer’s perspective as he posts comments on Danny’s blog. Danny, who has good reason to suspect both Mark and Mike of being the Angeles Arsonist, has a delectably murky back story: he knows it’s only a matter of time before someone realizes he’s the son of “Killer Kasho,” a murderer who was imprisoned years ago. Details of Danny’s family, including his mother’s abandonment of her children, gradually come to light as the story progresses. The downtempo plot pays off, making unexpected moments all the more startling, particularly when Danny comes face to face with the arsonist, in full fireman regalia, aiming a homemade flamethrower right at him. On the lighter side, heated banter between Danny and rival blogger Ursula occasionally goes on for too long. But McManus scores with his satire; Danny’s video chat appearance on an overwrought cable show is especially hilarious.
A story like wildfire—starts cool but only gets hotter.