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Vertical Burn

Emerson, Earl

288 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0345445899 / ISBN 13: 9780345445896
Published by Ballantine Books, New York, 2002
Condition: Near Fine Soft cover
From Black Falcon Books (Wellesley, MA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

The advance reading copy/unrevised proofs, in glossy wraps, of the first edition. Signed by the author on the title page: "Earl Emerson." A well-crafted suspense novel set in a big-city firefighting company. Spine and wraps are uncreased; slightly cocked; Mylar protected. Size: 8vo - over 7" - 9" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 002662

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Vertical Burn

Publisher: Ballantine Books, New York

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Trade Paperback

Book Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Edition.

Book Type: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)

About this title


Earl Emerson is the poet laureate of men and women who make their living where the heat is, bringing to life the terror of a burning building and the moments of solitude, solace, and camaraderie that happen in between. Now, Emerson has written a mesmerizing novel of suspense about a man who goes into a fire as a hero and a friend, and comes out as an outcast–and a target.


Twenty-eight paces. John Finney counted his steps as he fought his way for help from inside a Seattle warehouse burning on Leary Way. And when he reached his rescuers, he told them where his partner lay waiting–twenty-eight paces away. But they didn’t reach Finney’s partner until the building had cooled.

Now, six months after that tragic day, no one remembers Finney giving the directions that pinpointed his partner’s position. No one can remember anything about Finney except that he left his friend to die. For Finney, the son of a fire chief, losing his reputation and the trust of his fellow firefighters is a bitter blow. But Finney doesn’t believe the fire was an accident. And he doesn’t believe the campaign against him is one either.

Trying to reconstruct the events at Leary Way, Finney uncovers suspicious actions by men at the scene. With only one person on his side–a female firefighter who is herself an outcast in the department–Finney begins to piece together an astounding conspiracy that will turn friends into suspects, good men into conspirators, and every man inside the department into a potentially deadly enemy. And the most horrific fire is yet to burn.

From the terrifying darkness of a smoke-engulfed room to the politics that plays out behind closed doors, Earl Emerson captures with passion and pathos the life and times of the men and women dedicated to the service. In Vertical Burn he fuses his feeling for real-life heroes with a white-hot tale of suspense and betrayal– the kind of betrayal that burns bodies, burns a city, and burns a soul forever.


This fact-based thriller is more facts than thrills, as Earl Emerson, a lieutenant in the Seattle Fire Department who's penned a series of solid mysteries featuring detective Thomas Black, puts his professional expertise front and center. That may be a plus, as the book's centerpiece is an arson fire in a skyscraper, a scene that brings the NYFD's heroism on 9/11 sadly to mind, giving this book in timeliness what it lacks in narrative drama. There's a plot somewhere here which has to do with a few venal, scheming bad guys in a (fictional) Seattle Fire Department who keep a hero fireman from upsetting their big score by discrediting him, and when that doesn't work, trying to kill him. But Emerson concentrates less on character, story, and pacing than on the highly technical details of urban firefighting, which, while perhaps widening Emerson's appeal to a general audience, may make this title less than compelling to the devoted fans of his mysteries. --Jane Adams

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