The New York Times bestselling author of The Empty Chair and The Devil's Teardrop, is back displaying his "ticking-bomb suspense" (People) in this never-before-published thriller.
Every New York City neighborhood has a story, but what John Pellam uncovers in Hell's Kitchen has a darkness all its own. The Hollywood location scout and former stuntman is in the Big Apple hoping to capture the unvarnished memories of longtime Kitchen residents such as Ettie Washington in a no-budget documentary film. But when a suspicious fire ravages the elderly woman's crumbling tenement, Pellam realizes that someone might want the past to stay buried.
As more buildings and lives go up in flames, Pellam takes to the streets, seeking the twisted pyromaniac who sells services to the highest bidder. But Pellam is unaware that the fires are merely flickering preludes to the arsonist's ultimate masterpiece, a conflagration of nearly unimaginable proportion, with Hell's Kitchen -- and John Pellam -- at its blackened and searing epicenter.
Edgar Award-nominated Deaver (Bloody River Blues, etc.) exposes the brutal side of the Big Apple as John Pellam, a former Hollywood location scout, takes to the streets of Hell's Kitchen to film a documentary. Pellam is on his way to check on one of his interviewees, an elderly woman named Ettie, when he smells smoke and sees flames engulfing Ettie's tenement. Unfortunately, Pellam can't get near her fifth floor apartment, and she jumps out the window to land on a pile of trash bags. Pellam soon finds that Ettie is the prime suspect in the arson; she's kept in prison after another resident dies of injuries suffered in the fire. In an attempt to exonerate Ettie and uncover the true culprit who has been lighting fires around the city, Pellam ends up talking to some unnecessarily grouchy detectives, fire investigators and local thugs. Despite the ethnic mix of characters that populate this gritty mystery, readers may find that some of the details are overly gruesome (e.g., the arsonist's description of burning bodies) and Pellam's character is lacking in charisma. In addition, his extreme dedication to this one old woman merely because he's interviewed her seems less than plausible. (Feb.) Forecast: It's notable that this is an original Deaver novel, a fresh addition to a series that's been reprinted by Pocket and was written before the author became a near-household name with his Lincoln Rhyme novels. With Deaver's name on the cover, and with booksellers explaining to fans that it's a new item, the book should score big. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 29, 2001
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Excerpt from Hell's Kitchen by Jeffery Deaver
He climbed the stairs, his boots falling heavily on burgundy floral carpet and, where it was threadbare, on the scarred oak beneath.
The stairwell was unlit; in neighborhoods like this one the bulbs were stolen from the ceiling sockets and the emergency exit signs as soon as they were replaced.
John Pellam lifted his head, tried to place a curious smell. He couldn't. Knew only that it left him feeling unsettled, edgy.
Second floor, the landing, starting up another flight.
This was maybe his tenth time to the old tenement but he was still finding details that had eluded him on prior visits. Tonight what caught his eye was a stained-glass valance depicting a hummingbird hovering over a yellow flower.
In a hundred-year-old tenement, in one of the roughest parts of New York City....Why beautiful stained glass? And why a hummingbird?
A shuffle of feet sounded above him and he glanced up. He'd thought he was alone. Something fell, a soft thud. A sigh.
Like the undefinable smell, the sounds left him uneasy.
Pellam paused on the third-floor landing and looked at the stained glass above the door to apartment 3B. This valance -- a bluebird, or jay, sitting on a branch -- was as carefully done as the hummingbird downstairs. When he'd first come here, several months ago, he'd glanced at the scabby facade and expected that the interior would be decrepit. But he'd been wrong. It was a craftsman's showpiece: oak floorboards joined solid as steel, walls of plaster seamless as marble, the sculpted newel posts and banisters, arched alcoves (built into the walls to hold, presumably, Catholic icons). He --
That smell again. Stronger now. His nostrils flared. Another thud above him. A gasp. He felt urgency and, looking up, he continued along the narrow stairs, listing against the weight of the Betacam, batteries and assorted videotaping effluence in the bag. He was sweating rivers. It was ten P.M. but the month was August and New York was at its most demonic.