It begins when Eddie, a decorated ex-firefighter turned arson investigator, hunts a serial arsonist nicknamed Superman. Born Dagoberto Rojas, Superman is a Dominican psychopath hired by New York slumlords to burn out their rent-controlled buildings. In a spectacular opening sequence, he destroys a historic Lower East Side row house and escapes, leaving an infant dead and Eddie Burke addicted to Percodan.
When a lost WPA mural is discovered after decades, a young art restorer is murdered. It seems that the mural contains a dark secret that somebody's willing to kill for. Eddie, who has a chip on his shoulder the size of a Buick, calls on Columbia art professor Dr. Caroline Drexel to help break the case. But Dr. Drexel, a beautiful heiress, is tormented by her own inner demons. Reluctantly, Burke also seeks out the help of his father, Big Eddie, a legendary ex-NYPD Chief of Detectives from whom he's been estranged for years.
Eddie had started out as a cop. Number One in his class at the Police Academy, when he intentionally washed out and joined the FDNY. The rivalry between the Reds & Blues in New York is historic and Big Eddie seems to hate his son for the betrayal.
As the mystery over the fire-ravished mural twists and turns, more people are killed. Father and son are both drawn to the gorgeous art professor and we discover that Eddie has never forgiven his father for an infidelity committed the night that his mother (Big Eddie's wife) had a stroke. Though he's a great detective, the old man's weakness has always been women and he comes to physical blows with Eddie who suspects that the older, still virile cop, has designs on Caroline.
When they finally reconcile, Big Eddie confesses that he's always loved his son. But before they can break the case, Big Eddie is gunned down by the murderer who burned the mural. This sets Eddie off on a ticking-clock race to the finish as he faces the killer in an abandoned subway station.
When the novel ends, Eddie Burke has been promoted to Lieutenant in charge of The Bureau of Fire Investigation's Manhattan Base. Now redeemed and purged of his own family demons, Eddie takes his father's place in the top echelons of New York law enforcement. A veteran firefighter and son of a legendary cop, working cases for the FDNY. He's stronger, smarter and more polished now. But in the night, Eddie Burke is still haunted by the elusive serial arsonist they call Superman...
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