Book of the Day
The Firemaker is a lot of book packed into one story. Peter May uses the two protagonists’ backgrounds, tenets and cultural biases as point/counterpoint to demonstrate daily life in Beijing as China begins leapfrogging into the 21st century. With a setting which includes a visiting pathologist from the United States, on a 6-week lecture tour as a part of her recovery from a domestic disaster and a newly promoted police detective who has never considered questioning his superiors, the story revolves around a series of seemingly connected murders.
Almost immediately the murders take a back seat to the sexual tension between Dr. Margaret Campbell, the visiting forensic pathologist, and Li, newly appointed Deputy Section Chief. With the murder investigation as a backdrop, the hate/grudging professional admiration/like/love relationship between the two unfolds as the main story, always with the cultural differences presented as the primary row of hurdles.
Not content with a murder investigation nudging a growing personal relationship along in spite of the instincts of his main characters, May ups the game by introducing a high-level plot to derail progress on solving the crime. From antagonists to something more akin to an un-admitted item, Li and Campbell work ever more closely as danger both to themselves and others builds.
The Firemaker is a remarkably detailed picture of daily life in Beijing, with all of its Big Brother rules and rewarded propensity to report all activities which may fall out of the ordinary. It portrays a moment in transition from a totally closed and repressive society toward a more open approach. Where one sleeps is still noted and reported, but one’s ability to overcome the stigma of individual choice is becoming possible. May accurately describes the changes through the telling of his story.
If a look into Chinese culture is your quest, look no further. If you like a good romance, it’s right here. And if you can’t resist a whodunit, yes, the murders do get solved. It’s messy, it’s unexpected, and it’s all a part of an extremely well-written book.
Danny Lindsey keeps trying to retire. After a 20-year Army career and a 25-year second one in the private sector, he’s finally settled down. His current gig is as the Veteran Employment Services Manager for a Huntsville, A.L. based non-profit, Still Serving Veterans. Both full careers were characterized by numerous writing assignments, from war plans to operating policies and procedures, then on to white papers, analyses of alternatives and competitive contract and grant proposals. Now his writing consists of blogs for the website www.ssv.org, podcasts for the local NPR affiliate, and a half dozen Pulitzer-worthy, albeit unpublished novels.
Update: Danny won the 2017 Killer Nashville Claymore Award with his manuscript Serial Justice – so he will not be unpublished for long!