Life is briefly as it should be for Jack McMorrow: He and his wife Roxanne have retreated from the stress and danger of their day jobs to raise their daughter Sophie. But when development and arson threaten the nearby town of Sanctuary, and a crazy accident brings back mistakes from Roxanne’s past, Jack’s nose for crime leads him into a darker and deeply twisted tale. Something explosive is smoldering beneath the glossy facades and picturesque town square in Sanctuary, and the enemy is closer than he thinks. In Once Burned, the 10th installment of the internationally popular McMorrow series, Jack will take you alongside as he hunts a killer with a long memory and a very short fuse.
Plot, characterization, atmosphere everything works in Boyle's excellent 10th Jack McMorrow mystery (after 2010's Damaged Goods). Needing a story to sell to the New York Times, freelance crime reporter McMorrow begins investigating minor cases of arson in the town of Sanctuary, Maine, anointed a "hidden treasure" by a travel magazine and about to become a real estate bonanza. But the fires grow larger as the arsonist's self-control crumbles, while townspeople's ugly prejudices emerge as they try to preserve their community's seemingly perfect image. Meanwhile, McMorrow is increasingly concerned at how his social worker wife, Roxanne, is letting a disturbed young woman, Beth, insinuate herself into their home; Beth confuses her dead child with their trusting five-year-old daughter, Sophie. As McMorrow keeps stirring the pot, people start dying. Readers who enjoyed Robert B. Parker's ability to create smart, convincing heroes with a tough-guy surface but warmly empathetic interior will welcome this worthy successor.