Every New York City neighbourhood has a story . . . But what John Pellam uncovers in Hell's Kitchen has a darkness all its own. The Hollywood location scout is hoping to capture the unvarnished memories of longtime Kitchen residents in a no-budget documentary film.
But when a suspicious fire ravages an elderly woman's crumbling tenement, Pellam realises that someone might want the past to stay buried.
As more buildings and lives go up in flames, Pellam takes to the streets, seeking the twisted pyromaniac who sells his services to the highest bidder. But Pellam is unaware that the fires are merely flickering preludes to the arsonist's ultimate masterpiece - a conflagration of nearly unimaginable proportions. With John Pellam at its blackened and searing centre.
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.