An upstate New York native, M. P. Cooley knows the area well and showed that in her debut Ice Shear, introducing police officer June Lyons. She’s back with its sequel, FLAME OUT and it’s every bit as good a story, set in the rustbelt area of Hopewell Falls, along the Mohawk River.
Auntie M must confess to a bit of added interest unknown to her until she read this book: one of her three sons is Director of the Cohoes Library, and so she knows the area and can attest that Cooley gets it the depressed neighborhoods just right.
The action sets in quickly, when June is out on patrol and she picks up the scent of gasoline as she rides near an abandoned factory. Knowing arson to be prevalent in the area, she calls the fire in and heads into the factory, over a gas slick, fire extinguisher in hand.
She follows the trail into the building and finds a running van door open, and as the flames reach the van, a woman screams and rises from the mattress stuffed in the back, her clothes on fire. June manages to rescue the woman, but her burns keep the victim in a coma and she’s not identified. Until she is …
That’s the beginning of a twisted and complex plot that will have fingers tracing back into Juen’s own family’s past and that of her partner, Dave Batko, and his family. June’s father is a retired cop who is helping her raise her daughter, yet this case brings back the history of his arrest of the factory’s owner, Bernie Mede, for killing his wife and child, despite their bodies never being found. Then while dismantling the burned factory, the body of a woman is found inside a sealed barrel, walled up inside the factory.
The assumption is that this is Mede’s missing wife, but the identity turns out to have more ramifications for June’s partner, Dave, one that will see him sidelined, with June working alongside FBI Special Agent Hale Bascom to solve the murder and arson–and to unravel the past.
A gripping tale with the setting playing an important role, this rural procedural starts out as a small-town police case and soon grows into a tale of corruption and coverup.