Ten months after making a life-or-limb decision while trapped in a warehouse fire, Anne Ashburn returns to firefighting as a civilian arson investigator for the Massachusetts town of New Brunswick. She feels isolated from everyone, especially the man who saved her life and now carries a crushing load of guilt, Danny Maguire. But as the only daughter of a New Brunswick fire chief who died in the line of duty, and whose older brother now occupies that position, Anne holds herself to exceptionally high standards, which is often not only difficult, but puts her in active danger, just as it did when she was running into burning buildings. And at the beginning of her investigative career, she’s earned the ire of a dangerous man, Boston developer Charles Ripken, whose derelict warehouses have a dangerous tendency to burst into flames.
As Anne attempts to piece together the string of fires, Danny is forced into suspension and therapy for his angry and erratic behavior, fueled by heavy drinking, guilt over a long list of dead or maimed firefighters, and his suppressed love for the woman whose life he saved. Meanwhile, Anne is denigrated and threatened by Ripken, which prompts her new boss to reveal that the last person to investigate a fire on Ripken property — his oceanfront estate went up in flames with his daughter inside — washed up dead on the bay shore. Both know they’re in dangerous territory, but keep pushing forward, because it’s the only thing they know how to do.
As Anne begins piecing together evidence, she finds a common denominator, as well as a component that just doesn’t fit. As she searches for the missing element, she suddenly realizes she may soon join the previous investigator, as she’s in far more danger than a burning warehouse, and recognizes she may have lost her chance with her true love.
J.R. Ward is so talented a writer that even a reader with a deep fear of fire remains spellbound as they’re transported to the inferno surrounding Anne and Danny. She lets one particular story line drop without resolution, but given that she’s the author of another successful series, a second book picking up this thread won’t be surprising.