Chazin - Fourth Angel

September 27, 2004

Suzanne Chazin
The Fourth Angel

This is Chazin's first book, and I liked it enought that I went out and chased down her second one.

Chazin is married to an official in FDNY and uses her connections and friendships to give a plausible tale of the workings of one of the more interesting civic institutions. Our heroine is a woman firefighter, a single mom, in her seventh year on the job, first year as a fire marshal investigating fires. As Chazin works us through a sequence of fires set by someone with a knowledge of high temperature accellerants and a grudge against the department, she is really telling two tales. It is a procedural, after all, and all procedurals tell two tales at least. The first is the plot, the folks chasing after the McGuffin, or solving the crime, or otherwise engaging in some moment of crisis and, in this genre, thrills. The second is the love story. The third, and the thing that gives much of the interest to a good procedural, is the biography of the institution, with its habits and personalities, customs and rules, and the inner workings of a job that, like all jobs, has its own inherent interest.

Chazin is very good at evoking the position of a woman in a male institution, starting at the very beginning when we see our heroine appearing at the sight of a fire right after drinking a large coffee, and once again facing the fact that there is never anyplace for a woman to pee. Her love story is a good back and forth showing two strong personalities, each lying to the other for purposes of the plot, each enjoying the other for their quirks, and each disliking the other for many of those same quirks. It sounds goofy, but it works. The major premise of the story, the plot, suffers from the usual problem of the rich criminal industrialist (whoops, I gave it away!) - but given the genre anytime you meet a rich philanthropist you can save time by assuming he is a criminal.

I wonder sometimes about the populism of the thriller, a realm populated by violent conspiracies led by rich men who want to get richer, or cover up the crimes that led them to wealth, but where virtue always lies with the guy, gal in this case, who lives off overtime pay. It has become a cliche.

That said, Chazin handles her cliche well enough that we are not quite sure what is going on until late in the book - either that or I read it while tired and forgot to cherchez le millionaire.

Good stuff, good fire procedural, good strong female lead, written shortly before 9/11.

Posted by Red Ted at September 27, 2004 12:48 PM | TrackBack
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