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Friday, November 08, 2013

Ἔρως, Τάρταρος and Προμηθεύς

California Fire and Life by Don Winslow | LibraryThing:

Wonderful book. What more could you ask for: a good mystery, lots of detail about fire investigations, interesting character. I really enjoyed the section in the fire academy when the instructor is going through all the little details about fire and he uses the metaphor of a man seducing a woman. Fascinating: “Oxidation occurs. Act One: The Smoldering Phase. The seduction, if you will, the chemical reaction between oxygen and solid molecules in which the oxygen tries to induce heat in the solid matter. The seduction might take a fraction of a second—in the case of a hot number like gasoline or kerosene or some other liquid accelerant, the roundheels of the flammable street corner, I might tell you. Switching metaphors, liquid accelerants are the aphrodisiacs of the fire seduction. They are the storied Spanish fly, the fine wine, the manly cologne, the American Express Platinum Card left casually by the side of the couch. They can get the passion ignited in a big hurry. 

Jack is a really competent arson investigator., but one with a checkered past. He's sent by his boss to check out a fire that killed a woman. It appears to be a simple case of accidental death. Soon Jack is mixed up in something that's way over his head and that he didn't see coming at all. (Neither did I.) But Jack has a sense of wanting to do things right. 

Winslow writes great scenes. There's one love-making scene that's really erotic and another involving an attempted run-off-the-road that's very well done. One of the bad guys gets very well done, too. With just the right touch of humor.

One quibble. He says at one point, "Heated gas is lighter than air so it rises—witness your Goodyear blimp." Not an accurate example; a hot-air balloon perhaps, but the blimps have helium which is lighter than air.

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