By Maggie James
After a break during which I worked on editing His Kidnapper's Shoes for my Lake Union contract, I'm back working on my novel about arson, Burning Obsession. Arson lends itself well to novel plots, as authors can use the crime to cover up other nefarious deeds such as murder. The research I needed to do for my book was fascinating and at times quite unnerving! As part of my 'Five' series, I thought it would be fun to examine five novels that have also used arson or fire as their dominant theme. Here goes!
1. The Arsonist, by Sue Miller
Fleeing the end of an affair, and troubled by the feeling that she belongs nowhere after working in East Africa for fifteen years, Frankie Rowley comes home to the small New Hampshire town of Pomeroy and the farmhouse where her family has always summered. On her first night back, a house up the road burns to the ground. Is it an accident?
Over the weeks that follow, as Frankie comes to recognise her father's slow failing and her mother's desperation, and she tentatively gets to know the new owner of the local newspaper, another house burns, and then another. These frightening events open the deep social fault lines in the town and raise questions about how and where one ought to live, and what it really means to lead a fulfilling life.
2. Death du Jour, by Kathy Reichs
On a bitterly cold March night in Montreal, forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan is exhuming the remains of a nun in the grounds of an old church.
Hours later, Tempe is called to the scene of a horrifying arson. A young family has perished, but there is no explanation, no motive, and no witnesses.
From the charred remains of the inferno, to a trail of sinister cult activity, Tempe faces a nerve-shattering case which will test her forensic expertise - and her instinct for survival.
3. Blue Smoke, by Nora Roberts
Reena Hale has always understood the destructive power of fire. When she was a child, her family's Baltimore restaurant was burned to the ground in a cruel arson attack. The Hale family banded together to rebuild, and Reena found her life's calling: to become an arson investigator.
Reena loves her job - but the danger and crazy hours have left her unlucky in love. When she meets handsome carpenter Bo Goodnight, things look promising - until a series of suspicious fires are connected not just to each other, but to Reena herself.
As danger ignites all around her, Reena must rely on hard-won experience and gut instinct to catch a man determined to burn down everything - and everyone - she loves.
4. Afterwards, by Rosamund Lupton
Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire.
And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and runs. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.
Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her family from the person who's still intent on destroying them.
Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.
5. Fahrenheit 451, by Kurt Vonnegut
A hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage.
Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
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