THE FOURTH ANGEL by Suzanne Chazin


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Appealing first fiction about a scrappy single mom, a freshly appointed New York City Fire Marshal, whose dedication to the truth about a quartet of arson fires takes her to the highest levels of her own department—and into her own conflicted psyche.

Georgia Skeehan’s most formidable (and fully realized) antagonists here are her own memories, plus the guilt and fear they inspire. Years before, while attempting to rescue a downed firefighter, she believes she “finked out” and left him to die. Her courage and her ability to serve as a competent fire marshal are therefore always subjects of internal debate. When a string of unusual fires light up a handful of warehouses in Manhattan, Skeehan immediately suspects the cause is High Temperature Accelerant (HTA), a lethal combination of hardware chemicals that if burned can melt cement. The higher-ups will have none of this, though, until the intervention of Commissioner Lynch, who names Skeehan to the investigative team. Her colleagues resist her theories, but her troublesome habit of being right keeps the egg dripping from their faces. Meanwhile, a developing love interest tests Skeehan’s capacity to trust a man again. With a feint toward a conclusion to the mystery about two-thirds through, author Chazin keeps the plot fueled by letting on that the arsonist—an unthreatening and dimly realized character at best—doesn’t know the half of what he’s doing. Larger forces are at work. After Skeehan pulls off the stunning feat of making it downtown from a midtown hospital bed at rush hour, finding a secret bomb, rescuing a child and leading her own to safety; and getting a blunt confession from a family friend in 37 minutes, the bad guys get their due, departmental corruption continues on its way, and our heroine might be able to love again.

A nicely plotted mixture of detective work and personal growth that generates companionable, if not heated, interest for the reader.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-14705-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2000


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