Lee Goldberg’s Malibu Burning – Prisoners Fighting Fires

Danny Cole is a skilled thief, but one with a heart. After pulling off a heist, he stops to help an injured man and is nabbed by U.S. Marshal Andrew Walker, who’s been on a mission to stop Cole. In prison, Cole signs up for California’s program allowing selected prisoners to supplement professional firefighters. Besides learning new skills, Cole learns that where fire is concerned, not all homeowners are treated equally. A wealthy homeowner, Ronald Slezak, refuses to leave his multi-million dollar home and calls the governor who pressures the captain to protect Slezak’s mansion, measures that result in the death of Arnie, one of the prisoners. Furious, Cole vows that when he gets out, he will avenge his friend’s death while pulling off the biggest robbery of his career.

Finding out what causes a fire helps to prevent future blazes. Having left the U.S. Marshalls, Walker joins the Los Angeles County’s sheriff’s office where his new partner will be arson investigator Walter Sharpe. Walker compensates his lack of fire knowledge with his razor sharp investigator skills. He often spots anomalies at fire scenes that bypass his partner, but he has to be a fast study to understand all aspects of fire scene investigation. Something he doesn’t anticipate is that he will once again be pursuing Cole in the midst of a fast moving fire.

Lee Goldberg (Photo Credit: Ron Scarpa)

Bestselling author Lee Goldberg is no stranger to West Coast fires. He lives with his family in Calabasas, California, where flames forced him and his family to evacuate during wildfires in Southern California. As he did with his other thriller about fires, Lost Hills, Goldberg did extensive research to produce a work of fiction that is all too often frighteningly real. (With the recent fires in Maui, the destructive force of these blazes cannot be underestimated.)

Walker left the U.S. Marshalls at the urging – one might even say, the ultimatum – of his wife, Carly, now pregnant with their first child and wanting her husband to have a less dangerous job. Chasing fires, however, turns out to be even more perilous than pursuing criminals, so Walker spends most of his time lying to Carly about where he is and what he’s doing. He soothes her anxiety by arriving home with her food request of the moment, ranging from fried chicken to ice cream.

Even though Cole was arrested and sent to prison, he never turned on his accomplices who escaped with most of the money they stole. Now that he’s out, he reconnects with his attorney, Karen Tennant, who welcomes his release with a hotel room, Champagne, and a romp between the sheets. Karen has other things for Cole – new credit cards, a driver’s license, and the addresses of two women who were married to the prisoner/firefighters who died because the Los Angeles Fire Department opted to save a millionaire’s home. 

Danny drives to Bakersville to visit his former partners in crime, Tamiko Hamada and Kurt Sabella, who are thrilled to see him. They are even more excited to hear that Cole wants to recruit them for another job. How lucrative will it be? “Millions of dollars for each of us,” Cole answers, adding, “it will be epic.” He adds others to the team: Adam Horowitz, a tech wizard; Bobby Logan, one of the prisoner/firefighters; and Alison Grayle, a meteorologist for CAL FIRE who is still paying medical bills for her deceased husband, who was fighting the same fire Cole was involved in. 

Cole’s plan is to start and control a fire that will threaten Slezak’s mansion and two other ones nearby. Having seen what’s inside these homes – artwork, watches, maybe cash – Cole knows the haul will be huge. A massive and impregnable castle serves as headquarters for Cole and his team, protecting their mission and their lives. What he doesn’t count on is that his old nemesis, Walker, suspects what Cole his up to and is out to stop him.

Cole and Walker are compelling, likable characters and it’s easy to root for both of them. Goldberg creates a pulse pounding thriller and ties up all the ends in a satisfying and enjoyable way. A terrific read.

Malibu Burning
Lee Goldberg

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (706 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.