Fireproof: A Maggie O'Dell Novel
Alex Kava has been offering the reading public well-crafted books for well over a decade, each exponentially better than its predecessor, while continuing to hone her abilities to the extent that her prose is as sharp and as tight as you are likely to encounter. Kava does not fill the page with a surplus of bells and whistles; she simply makes each and every word count, as if she is writing with a calculator on one side of her desk and THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE on the other. One page flows to the next, thanks to relatively short chapters and dialogue that never goes for too long. Her characters are always interesting, though none more so than FBI Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, a complex, flawed, troubled and ultimately sympathetic character.
"[T]he novel contains some graphic descriptions of the aftermath of sudden and violent death. If you do not like this type of thing or are not used to it, you may find your stomach doing a flip or a flop, particularly when you drive past a Sonic or pizza joint for a week or so. The gastric upset, though, will be more than worth [it]."
FIREPROOF is Kava at her absolute best. O’Dell, still recovering from wounds sustained during the course of last year’s HOTWIRE, is assigned to the investigation of a Washington, D.C. warehouse fire, which has been deliberately set and is initially thought to be the work of a pyromaniac. O’Dell sees a more calculated motive behind the blaze, particularly when a woman’s body is discovered by the warehouse, and the human skull of another person is found within. The fire is quickly followed by another, and yet another, as the doer seems keen on both escalating his presence and taunting law enforcement by seemingly acting in plain view.
As the fires increase in number and severity, O’Dell finds herself under increasing pressure from above to solve the case. But her ability to function in the investigation is hampered, not only by the residual effects of her injuries but also by a news network crew that has chosen to make her the subject of a feature story, dragging her all-but-estranged mother into the mix.
At the same time, the subject matter of the investigation hits close to home for O’Dell, given that her father was a firefighter who passed away in the line of duty and that her half-brother, whose existence she learned of only recently, has chosen a similar career path to their father. Meanwhile, O’Dell is being stalked by a shadowy figure whose motives are anything but honorable and who may be connected to the series of fires, or to something equally as nefarious.
FIREPROOF stands on its own, with a beginning, middle and definite ending, but there are enough secondary plot threads and cases left hanging to provide for another book or two. Also, a bit of warning: the novel contains some graphic descriptions of the aftermath of sudden and violent death. If you do not like this type of thing or are not used to it, you may find your stomach doing a flip or a flop, particularly when you drive past a Sonic or pizza joint for a week or so. The gastric upset, though, will be more than worth your encounter with the tantalizing mystery contained therein, one that will keep you guessing (primarily between two characters) practically to the end of the book, not to mention beyond.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 20, 2012