Saturday, December 11, 2010

Against the Fire (The Raines of Wind Canyon), by Kat Martin--Review

Harlequin/Mira Books, ISBN 9780778329305
Publication date 01/25/2011

The is the second book in the Raines brothers trilogy, and it's the second brother, Gabriel Raines's turn. He's built a successful construction business, and life is looking good until someone starts torching his construction sites.

     After the first fire, the police quickly pick up a young man seen near the fire, Angel Ramirez. He had a previous arson conviction, but his family has been getting help from the Family Resource Center, and he's become a hardworking, well-behaved  high school student. Mattie Baker, a rising young architect and also an active supporter of the Family Resource Center, visits Angel at the police station, meets Gabe--and convinces him to keep an open mind about Angel, and look for other, more likely, possibilities.

     Gabe listens to Mattie mostly because she makes cogent arguments and is completely sincere, but there's no denying he's attracted to her--and she to him. This unacknowledged mix of motives is behind their decision to begin their own investigation in parallel with the official investigation, and when the police quickly uncover evidence that an unusual accelerant was used, and was purchased by a man who looked nothing like Angel, the young man decides that he's going to help, too. Mattie and Gabe tell him to take no chances, to ask no questions, just keep his eyes and ears open, but of course he feels the need to do more than that. The wrong person notices, and hits Angel on the head from behind, landing him in the hospital, in a coma.

     The attack on Angel heightens the sense of danger, as do the subsequent fires at other Raines Construction projects, and, for Mattie, mysterious hang-up calls she's getting, which she does not tell Gabe about. As the investigation throws them together, and their mutual attraction draws them together, they are pushed apart by Mattie's fear of relying on anyone other than herself. That fear was created by her father's early death, leaving her mother and herself in poverty, and compounded by a previous romantic involvement that ended very painfully. In counterpoint to Gabe and Mattie's courtship is the courtship of Gabe's friend Sam and Mattie's friend Tracy, who has her own very different yet equally painful issues making it difficult for her to commit to a relationship. Each woman, of course, can see the ways the other woman is frustrating her own happiness.

     As the fires continue and threaten Gabe's business, red herrings and confusing clues confound both the official and the unofficial investigations while an unbalanced but very clever and vengeful killer draws closer and closer. Whether or not Mattie and Gabe can find their way to true love will be moot if they don't find the killer before the killer catches up with them.

    A good, satisfying read.

   Note: I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley