Perennial bestselling author Jeffrey Deaver's alter ego, William Jefferies, knows a thing or two about Hollywood. So does John Pellam, the hero of his previous Shallow Graves
and Bloody River Blues
and the latest in the series, Hell's Kitchen
. Pellam made a name for himself as a director before a stint in San Quentin took him off the fast track. Since his release he's been earning his keep as a location scout and not so incidentally shooting a documentary about New York's Hell's Kitchen, which he hopes will propel him back into the career that skidded south after he ran afoul of the law.
Pellam has found the star of his new film, one Ettie Washington, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades and is the perfect voice to tell the story of an area that's losing its old-time seediness to urban gentrification. But then Ettie's tenement goes up in a blaze that kills a small boy and puts her right in the public eye--as a suspect. It's only the beginning of a series of fires, each one more deadly. The cops know Ettie couldn't have set the others, since she's been in jail, but they're convinced she knows who did. Pellam has his own reasons for getting Ettie off the hook and embarking on a search for the real pyromaniac. Jeffries saves the best one for the very end of this taut, well-paced, and highly atmospheric thriller. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Edgar Award-nominated Deaver (Bloody River Blues, etc.) exposes the brutal side of the Big Apple as John Pellam, a former Hollywood location scout, takes to the streets of Hell's Kitchen to film a documentary. Pellam is on his way to check on one of his interviewees, an elderly woman named Ettie, when he smells smoke and sees flames engulfing Ettie's tenement. Unfortunately, Pellam can't get near her fifth floor apartment, and she jumps out the window to land on a pile of trash bags. Pellam soon finds that Ettie is the prime suspect in the arson; she's kept in prison after another resident dies of injuries suffered in the fire. In an attempt to exonerate Ettie and uncover the true culprit who has been lighting fires around the city, Pellam ends up talking to some unnecessarily grouchy detectives, fire investigators and local thugs. Despite the ethnic mix of characters that populate this gritty mystery, readers may find that some of the details are overly gruesome (e.g., the arsonist's description of burning bodies) and Pellam's character is lacking in charisma. In addition, his extreme dedication to this one old woman merely because he's interviewed her seems less than plausible. (Feb.)Forecast: It's notable that this is an original Deaver novel, a fresh addition to a series that's been reprinted by Pocket and was written before the author became a near-household name with his Lincoln Rhyme novels. With Deaver's name on the cover, and with booksellers explaining to fans that it's a new item, the book should score big.
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