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A Suspense Thriller

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  3. Book Review: 'California Fire and Life' |

Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual state fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

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A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad, a team dispatched to a house whose owner is away, and a bomb disguised inside photography equipment exploded in the kitchen. But it is a second bomb hidden in the basement that has devastating consequences - half of the entire Bomb Squad is obliterated within seconds. The fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company.

War veteran Peter Ash sought peace and quiet among the towering redwoods of Northern California, but the trip isn't quite the balm he'd hoped for.

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  • The dense forest and close fog cause his claustrophobia to buzz and spark, and then he stumbles upon a grizzly long thought to have vanished from this part of the country. In a fight of man against bear, Peter doesn't favor his odds, so he makes a strategic retreat up a nearby sapling. There he finds something strange: a climbing rope affixed to a distant branch above. Fred Underhill is a young cop on the rise in Los Angeles in the early s - a town blinded to its own grime by Hollywood glitter; a society nourished by newspaper lies that wants its heroes all-American and squeaky clean.

    A chance to lead on a possible serial killing is all it takes to fuel Underhill's reckless ambition - and it propels him into a dangerous alliance with certain mad and unstable elements of the law enforcement hierarchy. When the case implodes with disastrous consequences, it is Fred Underhill who takes the fall. His life is in ruins, his promising future suddenly a dream of the past. Michael Tanner is on his way home from a business trip when he accidentally picks up the wrong MacBook in an airport security line. He doesn't notice the mix-up until he arrives home in Boston, but by then it's too late.

    Tanner's curiosity gets the better of him when he discovers that the owner is a US senator and that the laptop contains top secret files. When Senator Susan Robbins realizes she's come back with the wrong laptop, she calls her young chief of staff, Will Abbott, in a panic. Philip Kerr crafts a thrilling chapter from his critically acclaimed Bernie Gunther series. In Field Gray , Bernie finds himself imprisoned in —and told he can either work for French intelligence or he can hang. And things get interesting when he meets a French war criminal and member of the French SS who has been posing as a German Wehrmacht officer.

    He's a man who knows fire, who can read the traces it leaves behind like a roadmap. When he's called in to examine an unusual claim, the tracks of the fire tell him that something's wrong. So wrong that he violates his own cardinal rule - "You don't get personal, you don't get emotional. Whatever you do, you don't get involved" - and plunges into the case. Real estate mogul Nicky Vale's house is one of the most valuable properties on this stretch of the Southern California gold coast - large, luxurious, crammed with antiques, set on a nice piece of land with a perfect ocean view.

    After a disastrous blaze tears through a wing of the house, it's only normal that Vale would file an insurance claim. Vale's passing out in bed with a bottle of vodka and a lit cigarette - although a careful look at the evidence points to something more sinister. When Jack begins his investigation, he draws on his skill, experience and sheer stubbornness to uncover the truth of what's going on, but each step leads him further into a situation that's becoming increasingly dangerous.

    Soon arson is the least of Jack's worries, as the case grows to involve the Russian mob, Vietnamese gangs, real estate scams, counterfeiting and corporate corruption.

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    In addition, Jack's forced to confront his own ghosts, including a fatal professional error, and to cope with the sudden reentry into his life of the best thing that ever happened to him: Letitia del Rio, a Sheriff's deputy whose bombshell looks are exceeded only by her smarts and guts. If you read the synopsis of this book you might want to say, that looks uninteresting.

    Actually it is one of my favorite books in the last few months. Both the narration and writing are superb.

    The author has an "ear" for dialogue. The plot twists and turns so it is often suspenseful. But the major good point of the book is that main character is just a regular guy who will not compromise his morals. No Jack Reacher kind of character bent on killing about every third person he meets, but someone just dedicated to his job as a fire claims adjuster who will not tolerate fraud and an underlying murder.

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    So good I think I listened to entire 13 hours straight. I knew that Don Winslow was an excellent author, but it took me a long time to convince myself that insurance investigations, particularly arson, could be so interesting. What finally pushed me were two listeners I follow. I trusted their good reviews and was rewarded.

    Winslow can make the study of fire so interesting that I actually enjoyed the details required to understand the story. To be honest, I don't recall a time during the listen where my interest started to lag. I found the ending to be dramatic and satisfying. To Mr. Winslow -- well done and thank you for a great experience.

    Whatever you do, you don't get involved. You do the job and the rest of the time you surf. This isn't top-shelf Winslow, but if you are looking for a quick summer read while the grass dries up and the Santa Ana winds are blowing hard and you are wondering if your home is fully covered for fire, perhaps this is the book for you. Or not. This book had a couple strengths and a couple weaknesses. Strengths: 1. Winslow can write.

    He understand storytelling and knows how to develop characters and push the narrative quickly along. After page one, the gas is poured and the match is essentially lit. Winslow can research. He loves the details. He enjoys the technical aspects of the books he is writing. More often than not he seems to get it right, or at least close enough that the average reader isn't going to catch onto areas he is guessing at.

    Book Review: 'California Fire and Life'

    My guess? Fire science is not quite as air tight as he makes it seem, but still Winslow sets it up well enough for the book to engage. Winslow respects the reader. He isn't condescending, but he still understands what he is writing is fiction and essentially entertainment. So, he entertains. Weaknesses: 1. Sometimes he takes short-cuts that seem don't quite hold up. In this book it is probably the back foot of the plot. He is focused on the fire, corruption, and the Russians and less focused on the law, Insurance, and bureaucracy, so he tends to compress and make some pretty wild jumps. It is a minor point.

    While he is unapologetic, unabashed, and unashamed about his sex scenes, his boldness would almost work better in smaller doses. Two or three scenes make it more gratuitous and less bold. He doesn't write poorly about sex writing about sex is HARD but he doesn't quite know when to turn it off or at least down. What is honor, what drive your soul, where and why do you draw the lines separating life and the fire. Don takes us on another journey. If you're already a fan here's another great work.

    Looking for adventure, start here. This guy Winslow is a fiery writer. The plot's wonderfully yet accessibly involved. Within the limits of the plot, the characters are deep enough Wilson makes you believe that each of these people know what they know Five stars and I'm looking forward to my next Winslow, hopefully read by a talent as engaging as Jon Lindstrom. Have liked several of Don Winslow's other books but this one I have clients who need me. Oh, and sleep is good. But other than that I was listening.

    John Mackie: West Side. If you happen to click on one of links and make a purchase, we earn a commission and we always appreciate your support. While both books are good, California Fire and Life is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. So when I saw that Winslow had a new novel out, I had to read it. To Boone, surfing comes first and foremost in his life, and work follows somewhere in the distance. Years before as a cop in the San Diego PD, he covered a child abduction case. The case ended badly—so badly that Boone left the force. His one-time lover, Sunny acknowledges that the experience contributed to the break-up.

    When the novel begins, Boone leads an idyllic existence--surfing and hanging out with friends at Pacific Beach, and working just enough to pay the bills.

    Book Review: 'California Fire and Life' |

    Boone and a group of like-minded locals form something called The Dawn Patrol--dedicated friends and surfers who meet and surf on a daily basis. Author Don Winslow is a former PI--a profession that demands observation and understanding of the darker side of human nature. In The Dawn Patrol , Boone is sucked into a PI case, back into society, and away from his primary love for surfing by an intriguing case.

    When Boone is first approached to find a missing stripper, it seems as though this is an uncomplicated dispute between a stripper and her boss--possibly instigated by sour grapes. Everywhere Boone turns in this lurid world, he discovers corruption, bribery, and death. If you are a Winslow fan like me , then you will not be disappointed in The Dawn Patrol. Once again, Winslow delivers a hell-of-a-good, escapist read while creating his usual strong and well-defined characters.

    Instead he offers intelligent, character-driven thrillers that guarantee a solid, entertaining read. Read a chapter excerpt from The Dawn Patrol at publsiher. Some say the world will end in fire; Some say in ice. From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To know that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice - Robert Frost.

    Who would have thought that being an insurance claims investigator specializing in fires would be so interesting and so damn sexy?