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Night on Fire by Douglas Corleone
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312552275
Date: 26 April 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, an arsonist sets fire to the sixteenth floor of the Liholiho Tower at the Ko Olina Resort; the resultant death toll eventually reaches eleven. Lawyer Kevin Corvelli barely escapes with his life; he soon finds himself defending the primary suspect, the beautiful Erin Simms who was married and widowed within twenty-four hours and has a history of setting fires and cutting herself with a switchblade. Prior to the wedding, Erin had threatened to kill her fiancé, Trevor, who cheated on her. While searching for the true arsonist, Kevin finds his career and life in jeopardy.

I eagerly awaited the release of Douglas Corleone's Night on Fire, hoping it would be as intriguing and suspenseful as its predecessor, One Man's Paradise. I was not disappointed. Even when my apartment’s lights were extinguished during a raging storm one night, I was scrambling to light candles in order to continue reading Night on Fire. A gorgeous, tropical setting; endearing characters such as the four-year-old Josh Haslett; a tragic, headlining fire; a high body count; raunchy, tasteless humor; and plenty of human drama both inside and outside the courtroom combine to make Night on Fire a very enjoyable, fast-paced read.

There are several shocking twists before the true arsonist is identified. The final denouement is a very sad one that will haunt me for a long time. Initially, I thought the central theme for Night on Fire was secrets. Everyone, it seemed, kept them. Even four-year-old Josh had dark secrets; Kevin tried to coax them out of the little boy on the witness stand by promising to tell him his own. I felt extremely depressed by Erin's tragic, abusive life which resulted in her keeping many secrets - secrets that included pyromania and cutting. I asked myself: Why all the secrets? Josh, Erin and Kevin kept secrets because they could not trust other people. All of them had been betrayed or abandoned by family members. Reading Night on Fire made me realize the importance of family and family togetherness. Also, children are to be loved as individual humans and not looked upon as objects to be manipulated or imprisoned.

I don't like Kevin Corvelli. I think he is a crude, alcoholic, womanizing jerk. I could mention a host of other adjectives and nouns but I don't think all of them are printable. Why do I like reading novels based on a character that I strongly dislike? Because their mysteries are extremely fascinating and Kevin is a genuine riot. He had me laughing out loud from the opening sentence: "I'm about to get laid." He refers to the older woman, whom he's been trying to seduce at the outdoor beach bar, as a "cougar". She says the three magic words that every player longs to hear: "I'm so drunk." Kevin reminds me of Charlie Sheen's hedonistic character, Charlie Harper, on the hit comedy series, Two and a Half Men. Kevin, however, does have an admirable side; he heroically rescued the cougar (freelance journalist Sherry Beagan) and Josh from the fire.

The novel's villain is the overly ambitious, social climbing Deputy Prosecutor Luke Maddox; the tall blonde likes to surf and is as handsome as a Hollywood actor. Maddox performs every dirty trick in the book to turn Kevin into a pariah in the legal world and prevent him from winning cases. Kevin also receives opposition from his elderly partner, Jake Harper, who didn't want him defending Erin Simms. However, Kevin becomes his own worst enemy when he breaks one of the most important ten commandments coined by his former boss, the obnoxious Milt Cashman: Thou shalt not sleep with a client. Unfortunately, Kevin, who can't remain faithful for more than a few hours, also dates Kerry Naikelekele, a.k.a. Miss Hawaii. How does Kevin, who sucks down great quantities of mai tai and Red Bull, manage to remain so handsome and charming? Two glasses of wine before bed and I look like H-E-Double Toothpicks the next morning.

I highly recommend Night on Fire to all fans of mysteries except for those who might be offended by raunchy, Animal House-like humor and graphic violence. I insist that anyone interested in reading Night on Fire should read the first novel in the series, One Man's Paradise. On numerous occasions, Kevin refers back to his previous cases and previous girlfriends. For example, he still has nightmares about Brandon Glenn, his young client who was raped and murdered in prison just prior to being found innocent. I believe that Night on Fire has more crime scene investigation and courtroom drama than its predecessor. Fans of CSI will enjoy this novel. If you like mysteries involving arson, then I also recommend Bruce Desilva's Rogue Island and Brad Parks' Eyes of the Innocent: A Mystery.

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