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By Earl Emerson

Ballantine Books, 2006 ($24.95)
ISBN: 0-345-46292-0

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Tensions are high in Seattle after an arson fire in a supposedly shut-down club kills thirteen African-Americans and one firefighter.Rumors had been circulating that the firefighters did less than they could have to save the people in the building, or that they were so focused on saving one of their own that they ignored civilians they could have saved.Young blacks are rioting in the streets at a level unseen in Seattle since the '60's.

Captain Trey Brown, who'd been out of the city for several days, is shocked and saddened to learn that the black community is angry with the fire department, since they've historically had a good relationship with them.Trey, who is African-American, and was honored for his role in fighting the Z Club fire, is assigned to investigate the allegations about the mishandling of the fire.He is partnered with Jamie Estevez, an ambitious and beautiful television reporter.The two have different agendas and bump heads at first, but there are romantic sparks as well.

Trey is upset for a more personal reason that he is given this task.He has to come in contact with the mayor, Stone Carmichael, who is his estranged adoptive brother.Trey has not had contact with the Carmichael family since, at seventeen, he was accused of a terrible crime and kicked out of the family nest in an abrupt and violent fashion.He had managed to make his own way in the world, eventually reuniting with his birth mother and younger brother and building a successful career in the fire department.A lot of bad feelings come to the surface when he is forced to interact with Stone and others in the family.To make matters worse, it appears that the family may be linked in some way to the arson case.Trey's investigation soon puts him in mortal danger, escalating to a horrific scene when he is trapped in a burning building with little chance of escape.

I had some problems at first getting into the book.The point of view switches between Trey, Jaime, and several lesser characters in alternating chapters, many of whom have a similar "voice," and this was confusing until I got into the rhythm of the story.The strength in this book is the description of a firefighter's life.Some of the scenes were so vivid I could almost feel the heat.Mr. Emerson is a lieutenant in the Seattle Fire Department and knows whereof he writes. The reader is bound to come out with a renewed respect for the professionals who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis.

Edcom: This book is scheduled to be released in paperback format on November 27, 2007.

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