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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recommended Reading: "California Fire and Life" by Don Winslow

News about the recent fires in California reminded me of a book I read a few weeks ago by Don Winslow, California Fire and Life. I picked-up California Fire and Life after previously reading and enjoying Winslow's Dawn Patrol.

As in Dawn Patrol, the hero in California Fire and Life is a surfer and former law enforcement officer. In Dawn Patrol, the hero worked as as a private eye; in California Fire and Life, the main character is an insurance claims investigator named Jack Wade. Jack Wade's specialty is investigating fires. As the story begins, he is looking into a fire that occurred at an expensive home overlooking the ocean, filled with antiques - and one dead body. Jack's company has the policy on the home, riders for the antiques, and the coverage on the life.

From there the story takes off. Winslow covers a tremendous amount of ground in 400 or so pages, including the anatomy of a fire, the ins-and-outs of the insurance business, claims of bad faith when coverage is denied, crime in California, Soviet spying, the Russian Mafia, mock jury trials and more. The number of corrupt characters in the book is staggering, but makes for entertaining reading. And throughout it all our man Jack Wade is set on pursuing the truth.

In sum, California Fire and Life is a good airplane book or beach read.