Review: Dundas delivers fast-paced plot in `The Blaze'
'úThe Blaze,'Ě Putnam, by Chad Dundas
'úThe Blaze,'Ě Chad Dundas' second novel following his critically acclaimed 'úChampion of the World,'Ě is both a cleverly plotted mystery and a touching account of a wounded veteran trying to rebuild his life.
Matthew Rose, an army veteran whose memory was 'úscrubbed clean'Ě by a traumatic brain injury suffered in Iraq, returns to his unnervingly unfamiliar hometown in Montana to settle the affairs of the late father whose face he cannot remember..
On his first night back, he wanders the streets hoping something familiar might jump-start his memory. There, he stumbles onto a house fire that takes the life of a college student trapped inside. The fire, it turns out, was deliberately set.
This sparks a hazy memory of another fire he witnessed 15 years ago, one that he senses might hold the keys both to the latest arson and the central mystery of his own life.
Matthew teams up with a local newspaper reporter named Georgie Porter, a former girlfriend he can't remember. Dundas described their first meeting this way:
'úThe first thing he noticed was how tall she was - almost as tall as him. She had fine features and big dark eyes and wore a puffy parka over jeans and knee-high Sorel boots. . . . So, he thought, this is you.'Ě
Georgie has questions of her own. Why did the once happy student athlete she once adored suddenly turn sullen, drop out school, begin loathing his father, turn his back on her, and abruptly enlist in the army?
As Matthew and Georgie search for answers, they realize that someone in town is threatened by their quest and wants Matthew's past to remain buried. Soon, more arson fires are set, a local cop is gunned down and their lives are in danger.
With these two beautifully realized protagonists driving the action, Dundas delivers a fast-paced plot filled with unexpected twists. Their small town is vividly portrayed, and the writing is superb throughout, occasionally verging on poetry.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including 'úThe Dread Line.'Ě