by Dave Hugelschaffer
Cormorant Books Inc.
I must confess, this is the first Porter Cassel mystery I've read, even though it's the third in the series. I missed the first two partly because of time, or lack of, and partly -- I admit it -- I thought a mystery with a forest fire investigator wasn't my type of book. How wrong I was!
I was hooked on page one, on the way to the scene of yet another fire in the Fort Chipewyan area of northern Alberta. It appears to most that these are random fires but Cassel has a collection of broken bottles and a sinking feeling that these were targeted acts of arson. What gets tricky is that all the forests are on Cree land. This scenario unfolds as a body is found in a burned out cabin at the next fire; the band chief's pick-up is stolen and torched; and, a young teenager goes missing.
Although the RCMP have taken the lead on the investigations, Cassel can't quite keep away from the sleuthing trail that leads him into personal danger and professional disgrace. It's this tenacity that eventually solves the case although not all are brought to justice.
Dave Hugelschaffer knows whereof he writes. A former forest ranger and firefighter, it's this experience that draws the reader into the story and the world of forest fighting. It's a fascinating world and Hugelschaffer is a skilled writer, hooking the reader with descriptions of the landscape and characters, and keeping the pace, or the heat, turned up right to the end. And besides that, it's a well-crafted mystery. So grab and cold drink, and enjoy.