Jack Wade, a claims adjuster for California Fire and Life Mutual Insurance Company, is one of the best arson investigators around. 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. But a $3 million claim is rarely normal, especially not when it's filed within hours of the horrific death of the owner's young and beautiful wife. The County Sheriff's Department investigator, Brian "Accidentally" Bentley, has declared the fire, well, accidental - caused by Mrs. 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. 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.
©2012 Don Winslow (P)2015 Random House Audio
"Intriguing and suspenseful." (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
"[A] jazzy California thriller... Think Philip Marlowe if he were still sleuthing - and had taken up surfing." (Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice))
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"A book about an insurance adjuster, oh yea."
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. so you will find yourself laughing at some times. 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.
So good I think I listened to entire 13 hours straight.
"Who Knew? Insurance Investigations are Fascinating"
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.
"Fire, life.... Living in So Cal"
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.
"I really learned "stuff" with this one"
Its Don Winslow so the reader must deal with his usual "SoCal surfer crap" but you know that going in. Beyond the surfer stuff.... a very fine story with a very likable character and a surprise ending. .... I could enjoy more stories about "Jack" but that seems unlikely. .... Lots of interesting facts about fire, arson, etc.
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... but the research creates an enormous sense legitimacy. Wilson makes you believe that each of these people know what they know... and Wilson gives you enough to feel expert yourself.
Five stars and I'm looking forward to my next Winslow, hopefully read by a talent as engaging as Jon Lindstrom.
I thought I would like this book. I had very much liked Winslow's "Dawn Patrol" and "The Winter of Frankie Machine". I guess when a writer is as prolific as Winslow, there is bound to be variable quality in the books. I found this boring - way too much "pipe-laying" disguised as stilted, unbelievable dialogue. Yawn.
I expected the topic to be interesting too - fire investigation. I love learning about the processes professionals use in their work. However the chapters devoted to Fire School - where firefighters learn to be investigators - was boring and presented in the voice of a sophomoric instructor who took almost 5 minutes comparing the stages of a fire to sexual intercourse. I mean, come on. Did Winslow write this when he was 15?
All in all not for me.
"Early work by Winslow?"
This is new on audible but I bet it was written a long time ago. It was solid, but didn't have the punch of Savages or The Dawn Patrol. That said I enjoyed the book & the narrator.
"Fire 101 with some good plot twists"
Is a fire in which the soon-to-be ex-wife of Russian emigre and business tycoon dies an accident or is it murder by arson? Jack Wade, a "claims dog" fire investigator for California Fire and Life, investigates and in the process the listener learns a lot about fire and Winslow presents it in a very engaging manner.
Winslow is a really good story-teller and I found this book to be a compelling listen with some great twists and turns in the plot. I've also listened to "Savages" and "Kings of Cool" by Winslow and enjoyed them as well. In each case the narrator has been a terrific complement to the story.
Don Winslow has become one of my favorite authors. This story and the characters were very well developed and interesting. As with most of his books, I could listen for much longer and am almost disappointed when it's over.
"Don Goddamned Winslow"
I stumbled upon Don Winslow's "Winter of Franke Machine" a little over a year ago & took a chance. My question at the end of that book was, "How in the hell had I not known about Don Winslow?"
Turns out I had read/listened to one other book, "Savages", which was also excellent, but hadn't yet put them together mentally. Winslow is to Southern California what Dennis Lehane is to the Northeastern Seaboard. Which is to say, flawless. Rich character development and take no prisoners style, matched with exquisite storytelling.
California Fire & Life is no exception- it's a fantastic listen!
Really enjoyed this one. A mix of hard boiled private dick and noir with a touch of the mob and everything you ever wanted to know about combustion. Very well narrated. Recommended.
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