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California Fire and Life by Don Winslow

California Fire and Life

by Don Winslow

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I've always liked Don Winslow since his earliest mysteries.

This one delved into the world of fire insurance and since it's a topic I know nothing about, it held my interest. The author educates the reader on certain topics as much as spins a good tale but does it in a manner that's not in-your-face annoying. I loved the link to Russian mafia as well. The main characters are pretty well drawn, not flimsy caricatures like with some writers (but I have to say I love his Neal Carey mysteries from his early writing career the best. There are some fleshed-out, interesting main characters to be found in that series). The other thing Mr. Winslow is very good at is capturing the sense of place, in this case, California and the American dream of fortune and endless opportunities. A good couple of hours recently spent. ( )
  cjazzlee | Nov 13, 2015 |
The second novel by Don Winslow that I've read and enjoyed. Very twisty plot that kept me guessing. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Wonderful book. What more could you ask for: a good mystery, lots of detail about fire investigations, interesting character. I really enjoyed the section in the fire academy when the instructor is going through all the little details about fire and he uses the metaphor of a man seducing a woman. Fascinating: “Oxidation occurs. Act One: The Smoldering Phase. The seduction, if you will, the chemical reaction between oxygen and solid molecules in which the oxygen tries to induce heat in the solid matter. The seduction might take a fraction of a second—in the case of a hot number like gasoline or kerosene or some other liquid accelerant, the roundheels of the flammable street corner, I might tell you. Switching metaphors, liquid accelerants are the aphrodisiacs of the fire seduction. They are the storied Spanish fly, the fine wine, the manly cologne, the American Express Platinum Card left casually by the side of the couch. They can get the passion ignited in a big hurry.

Jack is a really competent arson investigator., but one with a checkered past. He's sent by his boss to check out a fire that killed a woman. It appears to be a simple case of accidental death. Soon Jack is mixed up in something that's way over his head and that he didn't see coming at all. (Neither did I.) But Jack has a sense of wanting to do things right.

Winslow writes great scenes. There's one love-making scene that's really erotic and another involving an attempted run-off-the-road that's very well done. One of the bad guys gets very well done, too. With just the right touch of humor.

One quibble. He says at one point, "Heated gas is lighter than air so it rises—witness your Goodyear blimp." Not an accurate example; a hot-air balloon perhaps, but the blimps have helium which is lighter than air. ( )
  ecw0647 | Nov 8, 2013 |
Winslow can write! This is his first book, and he got better, but this is really great. What a fun mystery. I loved learning about fire, and California real estate, and the Russian Mafia. I loved Jack, about whom I knew enough to care but not so much he stopped being mysterious. I also loved the surprise at the end, sad and grisly though it might have been. It made sense, but I did not see it coming. Perfect summer read. ( )
  Narshkite | Oct 13, 2013 |
Really enjoyed the storytelling of this book, as well as the very short chapters that coincide with the fast-paced action... following the a flawed fire claims inspector for a large California insurance company... a case so big and so complicated... and with so many consequences. Really a great read for people who like mysteries/thrillers. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Jul 11, 2013 |
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To the claims guys and their defenders.  It was an honor.
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Woman's lying in bed and the bed's on fire.
She doesn't wake up.
Flame licks at her thighs like a lover and she doesn't wake up.
Just down the hill the Pacific pounds on the rocks.
California fire and life.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307279855, Paperback)

Before he became a bestselling novelist with The Death and Life of Bobby Z, Don Winslow spent 15 years as an arson investigator. His expert knowledge pays off in California Fire and Life, a giant fireball of a thriller about ace arson investigator Jack Wade. Want to know why thick, oily soot on glass might be a sign of arson? Or why arsonists never burn their dogs? Or what the presence of "alligator char" means? You'll learn about this and much more, as Jack sifts through the ashes of a mansion in Orange County on behalf of the insurance company that he works for. A young wife and mother named Pamela Vale burned to death in the fire. Bentley, the sloppy and possibly corrupt sheriff's department fire investigator, claims that it was a case of drinking too much vodka and dropping a cigarette. Jack has his doubts--especially when he meets the woman's ex-husband, Nicky Vale, a slick Russian entrepreneur (read mafia chief) born Daziatnik Valeshin.

Before signing off on the multimillion-dollar insurance policy on Mrs. Vale's life and house, Jack does some more digging. Meanwhile, his old girlfriend--a policewoman who just happens to be the dead woman's half-sister--finds a link between Nicky Vale's Russian mob and a Vietnamese gang of criminals. Jack's insurance firm begins to act strangely, pressuring him to settle the Vale claim. There may be a little too much technical data in California Fire and Life, but Jack--who lives only to surf and investigate arson--is still a fresh and fascinating creation. --Dick Adler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Insurance adjustor Jack Wade investigates a house fire which killed a California heiress. Police rule an accident, but Wade suspects the woman's husband. Or is he being led up the creek by the real arsonist? By the author of The Death and Life of Bobby Z.… (more)

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