Review of American Fire

Review of American Fire by Monica Hesse
Rating ****

A serial arsonist is on the loose in a small town in Accomack County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Who is responsible? What is the motive? When and how will they be caught? These are some of the questions that American Fire attempts to answer.

This story first appeared as an article in the Washington Post. Unlike other article-to-book treatments, this one does a good job of not feeling overly stuffed. American Fire is a well-rounded look at two lives going off the rails.

My initial interest dealt more with the whodunnit aspect. That mystery is solved very early on, at least for the reader. Most of the book deals with the relationship between the two arsonists and what may have led to their deciding to burn down vacant buildings.

Since only one of the two individuals cooperated with the author, the real motive behind the fires is a bit murky. The author seems to indicate that the motive had to do with attempts by the arsonists to bring excitement to a floundering relationship. I feel that it had more to do with a fascination with fires by Tonya Bundick. A fascination that developed after her first fire – her parent’s vacant house.

As for Charlie Smith, he might never have gotten involved had his doctor prescribed Viagra.

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