A tragic house fire puts arson investigator Billy Nightingale and state trooper Sebastian Bly on the trail of an unusual killer. While investigating the clues at the fire scene – and taking care of the mysterious baby who survived – they discover a dangerous and determined arsonist. But despite her new family’s efforts to protect her, the young survivor must confront her horrifying past in a chilling showdown with a murderous mother determined to finish what she started.
Reuben's fifth novel (after 2004's Weeping), a poignant crime drama, introduces Billy Nightingale, a vigilant fire investigator, who rescues "Baby Tuttle," the tiny survivor of an act of arson and multiple homicide. Billy later uncovers incriminating evidence that leads to the conviction and incarceration of the unnamed baby's mother, Edith Tuttle, who has used fire to cover the murders of seven children over an 18-year period. After Edith loses her parental rights, Billy's older sister, Annie, and her husband, state trooper Sebastian Bly, adopt the child and name her Meredith "Merry" Marmalade Bly. Reuben, herself a veteran fire investigator, skillfully depicts the arson investigation and portrays the warm Blys with an almost fairytale-like sweetness countered by Edith's hauntingly cold persona. The family's struggle to protect Merry from learning her true identity goes up in flames when Edith is released and goes in search of the last witness to her depravity. In a flashback, a character teaching a young Billy about fire investigation says, "The problem with this fire is the ignition source," and the book's hot resolution confirms that a human ignition source is the most frightening.