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California Fire And Life


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Reissued with a brand new cover.

About the Author

Don Winslow has worked as a movie theatre manager, a production assistant, and as a private investigator. In addition to being a novelist he now works as an independent consultant in issues involving litigation arising from criminal behaviour. His novels include The Kings of Cool, Savages, The Death and Life of Bobby Z, California Fire and Life, The Power of the Dog, The Winter of Frankie Machine and The Dawn Patrol. In 2012 Savages was released as a blockbuster film.


A house goes up in flames, a body is found in the ashes, and claims adjuster Jack Wade wonders why the police keep insisting it's an accidentÄand why the man whose wife died in the conflagration is rushing the claim. Another from the author of The Death and Life of Bobby Z.

Jack Wade is "basically a Dalmatian": when a fire happens he's there. Jack, who works to live and lives to surf, was a sheriff's department fire investigator until he got caught planting evidence in a warehouse arson to protect a witness, and is now the top claims adjuster for California Fire and Life. That means sifting around in the ashes of other people's livesÄor in this case, deaths. When Pamela Vale passes out drunk and accidentally burns down the west wing of her Dana Point mansion, along with half a million dollars of her husband's antique furniture, Jack thinks maybe it wasn't an accident. There's no smoke in her lungs, and the smoke from the fire should have been yellow or orange, not the reported blood red, plus the dog was outside. "People will never burn the pooch," Jack knows, and he begins to search through the remains. Winslow (The Death and Life of Bobby Z), who himself worked more than 15 years with L.A. arson investigators, follows Jack through the burned char of the Vale house, where, in the novel's most compelling scene, he tracks down the history of the fire and reads its secrets. Pitted against him is a formidable adversary: Pamela's estranged husband, Daziatnik Valeshin, now known as Nicky Vale, who has survived a Russian prison camp to make himself over into the model of a perfect Southern California gentleman. Jack's investigation is packed with extrasÄRussian organized crime, faked freeway accidents, a $50 million insurance scam. But Southern California is captured perfectly in all its hyperbolic splendor, its overdeveloped beachfronts, its sudden, mysterious blazes and freeway chills. If the plot contains a few too many contrivances and coincidences, Winslow's knowledge of his subject and his territory, and the narrative's rapid pace, keep the entertainment value at steady flame. 60,000 first printing; simultaneous Random House audio. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

-Jack Wade is one of the best arson investigators in Orange County. While trying to convict an arsonist as well as protect the life of an informant, he bends the rules till they shatter. He roughs up the suspect, extracts an illegal confession, and then lies under oath during the trial. His partner admits the truth and Jack is out of a job, a reputation, and a relationship. Twelve years later, readers find him working for the California Fire and Life Mutual Insurance Company while spending the rest of his time surfing. A fire that results in the death of the beautiful young wife of real-estate kingpin Nicky Vale and a three-million dollar insurance claim needs to be investigated before the insurance company will pay. The sheriff's department and Jack's old partner have already ruled it an accident. Pamela Vale apparently had a drinking problem, was smoking in bed, and set herself ablaze. Except Jack learns that there was no smoke in her lungs-how could she have died in the fire without inhaling any? His investigation takes him into the brutal workings of the Russian mafia, of which Nicky Vale is a powerful member. What will intrigue young adults, beyond the interesting narrative, is the compelling story of fire told through Jack's sardonic voice and witticisms. His character is well drawn, likable, and suffers the consequences of his all-to-human errors. An entertaining and fast-paced read that will capture YA mystery fans.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

A smoking, smoldering threat of a book that flickers and flames and inevitably goes inferno . . . Cover to cover, it is hot, hot, hot * Austin Chronicle *
The best crime thriller of the year . . . Mixes two parts of Elmore Leonard with an equal portion of Carl Hiaasen to form an irreverent, ribald hybrid of a thriller that's pure fun * The Providence Journal *
[Winslow finds] a dark, sinister lyricism in the forensics of fire * The New York Times Book Review *
A jazzy California thriller . . . Think Philip Marlowe if he were still sleuthing - and had taken up surfing * Entertainment Weekly *

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