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5.0 out of 5 stars One hot read
Take the Southern California angst of Micheal Connelly's Harry Bosch. Add the techno-element of a Tom Clancy. Toss in a dash of the international intrigue of a Robert Ludlum. Set it on fire-- and you have California Fire and Life.
What a treat to find this book. So many of the "new" Southern California school of mystery writers seem to be the same...
Published on Jan. 10 2001 by Carol Peterson Hennekens

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring!
Jack Wade an arson adjuster for California Fire and Life Mutual, he understands and reads fires like no other person I have ever come across. The first half of the book is exactly an EXTREMELY detailed version of how Jack reads fire and how he became an arson adjustor...unfortunately for me, I really can't endure page after page of detailed descriptions for fires and...
Published on Aug. 27 2000 by Simonetta Cavilli


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4.0 out of 5 stars Into the Hot Zone, May 20 2001
By 
sweetmolly (RICHMOND, VA USA) - See all my reviews
Old pro Don Winslow sets up a pace and never lets up. The story grows, expands and explodes like the fires that are that are the bedrock of the tale. Jack Wade, the fire investigator for the titled insurance company, is as terse as his name. He works hard, gives value for the dollar and owes nothing to anyone. He is as unengaged as Lew Archer.
There is a lot of fire technology interspersed throughout the book. I was fascinated by all the information and feel it lent credence to the sometimes mystifying plot line. The characters are broadly drawn; this is a plot-event driven tale and has a gruesome factor of +3 out of 5. We aren't looking so much for a particular villain as a conspiracy. Just when the reader thinks he has things narrowed down and is ready for the grand denouement, the clues expand and become more inclusive. Remember "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers"? By the time the movie is half over you suspect your neighbor, wife and sister of being in cahoots with the bad guys. This is true of "California Fire & Life." Everyone and everything begins to look suspect.
A good fast read where you learn a few things in spite of yourself!
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5.0 out of 5 stars One hot read, Jan. 10 2001
By 
Carol Peterson Hennekens (Colorado Springs, CO United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
Take the Southern California angst of Micheal Connelly's Harry Bosch. Add the techno-element of a Tom Clancy. Toss in a dash of the international intrigue of a Robert Ludlum. Set it on fire-- and you have California Fire and Life.
What a treat to find this book. So many of the "new" Southern California school of mystery writers seem to be the same. Sure there are elements here - Jack surfs and his girlfriend is a Latina. But this is a book with a solid driving plot and an interesting angle -- arson.
I must admit I started out planning on only four stars for this book because of the sometimes overwhelming detail about the chemistry and physics of fire. Still the section on fire as a "seduction" is a gem. However, my husband convinced me that this detail (which he heard on tape and couldn't skim over) was one of the best parts of the book. Must be a guy thing.
So, for those who love the best of the classic elements in mystery/thriller reading but are looking for a refreshing change -- my solid thumb up.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insurance Against Boredom, Dec 4 2000
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
I was looking through my library for something to battle the "blahs" and found this gem. Don Winslow's book is excellent with a clever and tightly constructed plot. The story is written from the point of view of an observer who describes what the colorful and believable characters say, do and think. The realistic dialogue reveals the thought processes of the main characters in a way that cleverly allows the reader to anticipate and follow the action.
Jack Wade is an ex-cop, arson investigator who is employed as a claims adjuster-arson specialist for a large insurance company, California Fire and Life. He investigates a fire claim submitted by Daziatnik Valeshin,aka Nicky Vale, a Russian KGB military officer in the U.S. to investigate/infiltrate/use the Russian Mafia. He uses his connections to make money and put himself in a position of power. Jack's investigation of Vale's claim uncovers arson and murder. Jack stands up against his insurance co. which wants to pay the claim. Why? It is all inter-related, clever and very, very entertaining. It is funny, easy to relate to and would be a movie hit if done right. Highly Recommended!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Boring!, Aug. 27 2000
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
Jack Wade an arson adjuster for California Fire and Life Mutual, he understands and reads fires like no other person I have ever come across. The first half of the book is exactly an EXTREMELY detailed version of how Jack reads fire and how he became an arson adjustor...unfortunately for me, I really can't endure page after page of detailed descriptions for fires and gas chromatography - and I am a scientist!
Finally, after skipping several pages of descriptions about burn marks, patters on the wall and carpet, I finally see a story emerging, but by the time this happens, it is filled with ridiculous characters and plots that I can barely keep my eyes open..at four o'clock in the afternoon!
I had to put this book down about 1/2 way through, I really didn't care anymore about 'whodunit' or 'why'...
If you have insommnia or you really love fires, then buy this book but otherwise stick to Dennis Lehane, John Sandford or James Patterson for interesting crime/thrillers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, July 28 2000
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
California Fire and Life Don Winslow Knopf 1999 ISBN 0676549705 H.C. Mystery
I had never heard of Don Winslow before I was sent this book to review, now he is a favorite.
Jack Wade an arson adjuster for California Fire and Life Mutual, understands fires, its the people that he doesn't understand. Wade is a very engaging character, who really knows what he is doing. Jack must investigate a fire that he knows is arson, but others believe is accidental, his own company starts to pressure him to settle the case, but he cant and he breaks his own cardinal rule, "You don't get emotional and what ever you do don't get involved. As Jack gets further and further involved the situation becomes more dangerous. Soon arson is the least of Jacks worry, as the case grows to involve the Russian mob and Vietnamese gangs and much more. This book is a wild ride through the world of fire and insurance. The characters are cool and real life. I especially liked the details of the fire investagationing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful suspense read -- I've recommended it to everyone!, Oct. 29 1999
By 
LeAnn M (Houston, Texas) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
I had never heard of Don Winslow before I picked up this book at the bookstore (prior to my first-ever internet order), but I am now a devoted fan. Unlike some of the people who reviewed this book, I wondered during the first 3 pages whether I would like the book because I didn't understand the significance of the first few chapters, but I kept reading and am VERY glad I did. I have loaned it to a coworker (who loved it as much as I did) and to 2 family members so far (both of whom stayed up all night reading it - one of whom RARELY does without her sleep!) and am recommending it to anyone I know who likes mystery/thrillers. I am even ordering another hardback copy through AMAZON.COM so that I can have a copy to loan to others. Some may balk at the language used with regard to the main character (in fact it seems that "Colorado" was unable to get past it in order to enjoy the book), but unless you are unusually sensitive it shouldn't matter as it really took me into the character's head (my coworker, in fact, had warned me that she didn't like "bad language" but reported that it didn't affect her enjoyment of the book). Midway through the book, I realized that I didn't want it to end....I just wanted to keep reading and reading. Immediately after reaching the thrilling conclusion, I read it again; then I ordered his first book, "Life and Death of Bobby Z," which I have not yet read but my coworker borrowed it and didn't enjoy it as much as "California Fire & Life." Like the reader from Phoenix, I cannot IMAGINE this book in audio form, but the printed book provides a "must read" which will keep you up all night! I am giving at least 2 copies as Christmas presents. Like "furiousmail," I never thought arson investigation could be so interesting...I cannot WAIT for Mr. Winslow's next book!!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Red Hot, June 21 1999
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
The first smashing three pages of "California Fire and Life" set the tone of the book and launch action that never flags. Jack Ward is a claims investigator for the firm of the title, and is called to examine the case of a very pricey fire in which a woman died. Nothing rings true to him about this claim, which his old adversary "Accidently Bentley" has ruled to be-that's right - accidental. The whole setup is fishy, and the fire scenario frankly phony, but why is Jack headed off at every turn, even by his own company? Maybe he's wrong. Maybe the Russian mafia un-broken-up husband is telling the truth. Maybe all those witnesses who have now disappeared really are on vacation. By the time author Don Winslow is finished, not only are the Russians involved, so are the Vietnamese, land developers, bikers, surfers, a parrot, and an elderly lady with a missing set of spoons. Everything pays off in this book and pays off in just about the least expected way. Winslow, creates characters we enjoy and care about, and struts an unusual and quirky literary voice You'll learn a lot abut fire in this book, the kind of stuff only a former fire investigator like Winslow could flash convincingly. A smart read so cool it's hot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous who-done-it, May 15 1999
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
In California, fire investigator Jack Wade works claims for an insurance company. His current case involves the death of Pamela Vale, who died in her home. Jack's most acrimonious rival immediately declares was an accident. However, after a thorough search of the place, Jack believes that someone deliberately set the fire to murder the fund-raiser.
Jack believes Pam's spouse Nicky is the arsonist-killer even though the suspect has an alibi provided by his mother. Instead, Jack sees a developer near bankrupt who suddenly has money within his grasp. Unbeknownst to Jack is the Russian connection. However, he and his former lover (Pam's half-sister) will soon find out about that and more as they continue to make inquiries into the fire that left one person dead. Perhaps the afterglow will burn Jack too once he learns the truth.
CALIFORNIA FIRE AND LIFE is a hot who-done-it that will leave readers laughing from the most puns fired on this side of Mundania and excited from the fast-paced story line. The tale never cools off as Jack digs himself deeper into trouble. As he did with THE DEATH AND LIFE OF BOBBY Z, Don Winslow provides his audience with an entertaining tale that is the ultimate l(arson)y investigation.

Harriet Klausner
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great read, Feb. 25 2003
By 
S. Hawkins "SMH" (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was introduced to Don Winslow 4 years ago when he gave a lecture I attended. I found him to be an incredible speaker with an extensive knowledge base (he was speaking on the American Revolution). I assumed (rather, hoped) that his writing style would follow suit - interesting and informative, yet also direct and captivating.
I was not disappointed. This book is not only a well-written piece of fiction, with a well thought out plot and nicely developed characters, it is also assisted by spectacular research on Winslow's part. This book, which deals with a fire investigation, does not merely provide a shallow and quick look into the details of an investigation; it goes all out (in, rather).
For some people, this might be too much (it's a lot of info on how fires are started and how different fires spread and burn). However, for anyone who likes their reading to have some substance, this is a great find.
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5.0 out of 5 stars HOT! HOT! HOT!, Aug. 9 2001
Ce commentaire est de: California Fire and Life (Hardcover)
Okay, so maybe my title for this review isn't all that interesting and original, but (and trust me on this one) CALIFORNIA FIRE & LIFE is. Jack Wade, a down-on-his-luck fire insurance investigator, becomes the novel's unlikely hero in this technically-filled thriller (think Crichton meets Ellroy) that combines the science of fire and arson with a slick writing style that often felt like was being read aloud to me. Never was I let down by any of the surprises, flashbacks or characters while reading CA FIRE & LIFE and found myself nearly begging for more. The dialogue was quick and often very witty. The depth of deceit was very believable and never confusing (despite what other reviewers may say). Honestly, I can't say enough good things about this book. Just read it. In CALIFORNIA FIRE & LIFE, Don Winslow has proven himself a great mystery writer.
Now, how about bringing Jack back?
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California Fire and Life
California Fire and Life by Don Winslow (Paperback - Sept. 4 2007)
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