California Fire and Life Audio Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook
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Before he became a bestselling novelist with The Death and Life of Bobby Z, Don Winslow spent 15 years as an arson investigator. His expert knowledge pays off in California Fire and Life, a giant fireball of a thriller about ace arson investigator Jack Wade. Want to know why thick, oily soot on glass might be a sign of arson? Or why arsonists never burn their dogs? Or what the presence of "alligator char" means? You'll learn about this and much more, as Jack sifts through the ashes of a mansion in Orange County on behalf of the insurance company that he works for. A young wife and mother named Pamela Vale burned to death in the fire. Bentley, the sloppy and possibly corrupt sheriff's department fire investigator, claims that it was a case of drinking too much vodka and dropping a cigarette. Jack has his doubts--especially when he meets the woman's ex-husband, Nicky Vale, a slick Russian entrepreneur (read mafia chief) born Daziatnik Valeshin.
Before signing off on the multimillion-dollar insurance policy on Mrs. Vale's life and house, Jack does some more digging. Meanwhile, his old girlfriend--a policewoman who just happens to be the dead woman's half-sister--finds a link between Nicky Vale's Russian mob and a Vietnamese gang of criminals. Jack's insurance firm begins to act strangely, pressuring him to settle the Vale claim. There may be a little too much technical data in California Fire and Life, but Jack--who lives only to surf and investigate arson--is still a fresh and fascinating creation. --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Jack Wade is "basically a Dalmatian": when a fire happens he's there. Jack, who works to live and lives to surf, was a sheriff's department fire investigator until he got caught planting evidence in a warehouse arson to protect a witness, and is now the top claims adjuster for California Fire and Life. That means sifting around in the ashes of other people's livesAor in this case, deaths. When Pamela Vale passes out drunk and accidentally burns down the west wing of her Dana Point mansion, along with half a million dollars of her husband's antique furniture, Jack thinks maybe it wasn't an accident. There's no smoke in her lungs, and the smoke from the fire should have been yellow or orange, not the reported blood red, plus the dog was outside. "People will never burn the pooch," Jack knows, and he begins to search through the remains. Winslow (The Death and Life of Bobby Z), who himself worked more than 15 years with L.A. arson investigators, follows Jack through the burned char of the Vale house, where, in the novel's most compelling scene, he tracks down the history of the fire and reads its secrets. Pitted against him is a formidable adversary: Pamela's estranged husband, Daziatnik Valeshin, now known as Nicky Vale, who has survived a Russian prison camp to make himself over into the model of a perfect Southern California gentleman. Jack's investigation is packed with extrasARussian organized crime, faked freeway accidents, a $50 million insurance scam. But Southern California is captured perfectly in all its hyperbolic splendor, its overdeveloped beachfronts, its sudden, mysterious blazes and freeway chills. If the plot contains a few too many contrivances and coincidences, Winslow's knowledge of his subject and his territory, and the narrative's rapid pace, keep the entertainment value at steady flame. 60,000 first printing; simultaneous Random House audio. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Don Winslow once again chooses an area to elucidate, this time fire. One learns more than one wants to know about it, but behind the information is a well-delivered plot, written... Read morePublished 4 months ago by ismeb
Great book. First time reading Winslow. Will read the rest for sure.Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
I have discovered Winslow and have fallen deeply in love with his writing style...but this book failed to grab me. WAY too much detail and an odd, detached feeling to the work. Read morePublished on July 17 2003 by Michael Bryan
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2003 by S. Hawkins
Once again a great story from the Neal Carey adventures-author.
Not as funny ,but surely more thrilling and mature. Read more
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. Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2001
What a disappointment! It sure looks like there's a good mystery in this book somewhere but digging through all the detail and ploding style is just too much. Read morePublished on July 31 2001 by Amazon Customer
A totally excellent read. Don Winslow's style is fresh, forthright and very readable. The plot for this novel is fascinatingly local to the California coast, yet reaches out to... Read morePublished on July 23 2001
One of the better mysteries I've read in a while - sicko villains, very involving fascinating details about arson investigations, fast pace.Published on July 18 2001