Morgan Mason attracts more than a few stares when he drives through town on his ramshackle tractor wearing a skirt. His sister is mortified, his neighbor resents the Skirt Man’s interference, and a local preservationist is horrified by Morgan’s huge satellite dish.
When the Skirt Man is killed in a tragic house fire, State Trooper Sebastian Bly and Fire Marshal Billy Nightingale are called in to investigate what some say is a case of spontaneous human combustion. Charred wood and chair remnants at the fire scene lead Sebastian and Billy to uncover clues that reveal hidden conflicts and a shocking discovery that will change the lives of everyone in Killdeer.
Bringing back the brave and imaginative family team from Tabula Rasa, author and fire investigator Shelly Reuben fans the flames of small-town passion and breathes life into an unusual local hero.
In this sequel to Tabula Rasa (2005), the house fire that kills Morgan Mason, an eccentric old farmer (aka "the Skirt Man"), in Killdeer, N.Y., is so bizarre that some of his neighbors suspect spontaneous human combustion. State trooper Sebastian Bly and fire marshal Billy Nightingale uncover the more prosaic and heart-wrenching truth, assisted by Annie Bly, a rather ditzy reporter for the local newspaper. Given Edgar-nominee Reuben's two decades working in the male-dominated field of fire investigation, it's baffling to see her write a book almost devoid of independent female characters. Annie, the narrator, is defined by her titles Sebastian's wife, Billy's sister, mother of teen ballet star Meredith while avoiding any associated responsibility, from her opening disclaimer of "I don't as a rule write books" to her desperate evasion when her boss attempts to make her editor-in-chief. The details of the investigation are fascinating; Reuben writes what she knows, and it shows. Too bad she doesn't extend that to writing about capable, professional women.