Mira, Dec 2003, 23.95, 302 pp.
Thanks to the Santa Ana winds, the fires are winning and roads are closed in and around Malibu. A frantic Matt Lowell needs to get inside the dead zone to rescue his dog, Barney, but is told that no one enters. Still he feels he must try as Barney has no escape from his fiery prison being locked inside their home. However, on the final leg of his trek along the beach, Matt is stunned to find a still breathing abandoned newborn in the midst of the inferno, but to his everlasting nightmare, the infant dies before he can bring the girl to safety.
Not long afterward, the police find the dead body of the baby's teenage mother covered with wildflowers. Obsessed as much as he was in saving his beloved canine and feeling a connection to the deceased baby Matt wants who killed them especially since the police thinks he murdered the mother. Matt begins his own inquiries.
Though Matt seems a bit too perfect, suspense fans will appreciate this terse thriller. The story line is action packed from the fires (out of the headlines) to the implied accusations to the amateur sleuth inquiries and finally to THE TRADE itself. Greed is the common theme and contrasts sharply to the hero who is goodness personified. Shirley Palmer is an expert storyteller whose tale is a study in contrasts.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner