House on Fire

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Overview

Kevin Dempsey appeared to have it all: a beautiful wife named Polly; Zoe, his beloved little girl; a rewarding job as a firefighter; the comfort of a close-knit Irish family. But as he sits one night in the house that he has bought as a surprise for Polly, who is scheduled to return that evening from a trip with Zoe, everything he has - or thought he had - goes up in flames. It begins with a phone call from Polly, who never showed up for the surprise party Kevin so carefully orchestrated. She tells him that she ...
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Overview

Kevin Dempsey appeared to have it all: a beautiful wife named Polly; Zoe, his beloved little girl; a rewarding job as a firefighter; the comfort of a close-knit Irish family. But as he sits one night in the house that he has bought as a surprise for Polly, who is scheduled to return that evening from a trip with Zoe, everything he has - or thought he had - goes up in flames. It begins with a phone call from Polly, who never showed up for the surprise party Kevin so carefully orchestrated. She tells him that she is not coming back, that she is taking Zoe with her, that Zoe is not even his child. Kevin's world, everything he knows and loves, falls apart. In retreat, Kevin turns to his family, his job, and to booze. But Frank, Kevin's older brother, a New York City detective being investigated in a police corruption scandal, has secrets of his own - family secrets that propel him in his search for Polly and Zoe. A novel that explores the relationship between two emotionally damage brothers and the strong-willed women who love them, House on Fire accelerates with frightening speed as the chase moves across the country, and the characters become intertwined in a way that will alter all their lives forever. Denis Hamill has written a book that examines what happens to a man who has lost his sense of identity, and what happens to a family that, plagued with secrets, must pull together in a time of crisis.

From the critically acclaimed author of Stomping Ground and Machine comes a riveting novel of fatherhood and betrayal. Kevin Dempsey seems to have it all: a beautiful wife, beloved daughter, and a rewarding job as a firefighter. But his life is shattered forever when his wife leaves, taking the child with him.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hamill's third novel-his first in 11 years-is, like its predecessors (Machine; Stomping Ground), a crime potboiler revolving around working-class Brooklynites. Fireman Kevin Dempsey has bought a big house in a quiet area of Brooklyn as a surprise birthday gift for his wife, Polly, an ex-model who is due back from Disney World with their three-year-old daughter, Zoe. But Polly calls Kevin to say that she isn't coming back, and that neither is Zoe-who, she adds, isn't his daughter anyway. Kevin is devastated, but he is just the latest in a line of Dempseys to succumb to misfortune. His older brother, Frank, has recently been suspended from the police force, suspected of stealing $1.5 million in cocaine money from an evidence room; in response to that calamity, their father, a career cop, has committed suicide. Unable to bear the pressure, Kevin freezes while fighting a fire and is sent to a rehab center for alcoholics, prompting Frank, who's also a rummy, to take up the hunt for Polly. Hamill limns the Dempseys' struggle with alcohol believably and in some depth, but his plot line, which twists around a get-rich-quick medical scheme and plays out in a fatal family confrontation backdropped by a raging California wildfire, seems contrived for maximum melodrama. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Kevin Dempsey has it all: a job he loves in his native Brooklyn, a large family, a new house, a beautiful wife, and a daughter he adores. Then comes the call from Polly telling him that not only is she leaving him but that Zoe is not his daughter. The macho firefighter can admit this setback only to his best friend, a doctor, who tests his sperm count and confirms the bad news. As Kevin searches for a reason to live, his brother, Frank, finds one in hunting for Polly. Frank even steals money from the police evidence room to fund his search. Along the way he meets Sarah, who gives him a reason to stop drinking. The emotionally damaged brothers and the women who love them are real people who react believably. The settings become characters, too, and the Los Angeles fire at the end is particularly riveting. This is Daily News columnist Hamill's first book since Machine (LJ 4/1/84). Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/95.]-Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L.
Melanie Duncan
Hamill has produced a carefully plotted thriller set in Brooklyn, New York. Firefighter Kevin Dempsey purchases a house as a surprise birthday gift for his beloved wife, Polly, and their daughter, Zoe, who are returning from vacation. They never arrive. Polly calls Kevin and tells him their marriage is over, she loves someone else, and Zoe is not his biological daughter. Devastated, Kevin turns to his family. His sister, Margie, provides emotional support while his brother, Frank, a cop accused of corruption, starts tracking Polly with the help of her friend Sarah Cross. As Frank and Sarah trace Polly, they discover a Polly that Kevin never knew: an amoral, greedy woman bent on becoming rich. The investigation uncovers secrets kept by the closest of friends and betrayals that could destroy the Dempsey family. Hamill wraps it up with a conclusion that neatly ties all plot threads together and leaves a major character unexpectedly dead.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671003500
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 2/1/1998
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2003

    GOOD FDNY READING!

    An intrigue from the very beginning. Hamill speaks volumes in short descriptions of New York City firemen and the lives that surround them. I bought this book for a long train ride and was actually impressed with how fast the book runs. An enjoyable non stop ride till the very end.

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