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Publisher's Summary

Shocked by a five-month arson spree that left rural Virginia reeling, Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse drove down to Accomack County to cover the trial of Charlie Smith, who pled guilty to 67 counts of arson. But Charlie wasn't lighting fires alone: he had an accomplice - his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick. Through her depiction of the dangerous shift that happened in their passionate relationship, Hesse brilliantly brings to life the once-thriving coastal community and its distressed inhabitants, who had already been decimated by a punishing economy before they were terrified by a string of fires they could not explain.

Incorporating this drama into the long-overlooked history of arson in the United States, American Fire re-creates the anguished nights that this quiet county spent lit up in flames, mesmerizingly evoking a microcosm of rural America - a land half gutted before the fires even began.

©2017 Monica Hesse (P)2017 Dreamscape Media, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

As an Eastern Shore person, I was keen to

read this story as it unfolded in my neighborhood.

The story is good and well researched and well-written. My only negatives were several misspelled place names and the butchering of place names the reader managed.

Still, a good read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good book, Bad Reader

This sounded as if it was read by a robot. She. Pronounced. Every. Word. With. No. Emotion. Siri would have done a better job.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Truth is always stranger than fiction

If you didn't know this was a true story, you'd think it was a very unlikely piece of fiction. Very interesting tale presented in an interesting way.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting Story- Narrator very difficult to listen to

I really liked the arc of the story- alternating between past and present until the two stories collide. The narrator speaks in a very choppy intonation that makes it hard to listen to, but worth the story if you can get passed the first few chapters and get used to it!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Narration is horrible

If you want to hear Siri read you a book, then this is the book for you! The story is good but the narration is hard to overcome.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting read

Interesting read , hard to believe its true . Not for those looking for beautiful prose or to get swept away to another land by a narrative this is not your book. Nevertheless the Author does a good job to give adequate background and provide enough background about the characters thst you feel like you know them.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Lots of Love and Arson, Not Much Vanishing Land

This book is a riveting account of how Charlie Smith and Tonya Bundick carried out a series of arsons in rural Virginia. Monica Hesse paints a vivid picture of complicated characters, and she juggles the opposing tasks of showing the scope of this story while still focusing on the real human beings at its center. So the story itself was expertly told.

The book did a weaker job of tying the story to the larger them promised in the title: "Life in a Vanishing Land." Hesse gives a lot of detail about the lives of the characters, but there's not a lot of connection made to the forces that economically ravaged Accomack County and places like it. I'm not sure that connection exists, but it's a promise made by the title that doesn't necessarily play out. That doesn't take much away from the book, however, as the story is propulsive and incredibly interesting.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Intriguing Real Life Crime Novel

I really enjoyed this non-fiction piece about an arson spree. The arsons took place fairly recently, so the context was familiar. I particularly enjoyed the parts about Psychology and the court system. I would recommend to those who enjoy true crime books.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Entertaining and Informative

Was like listening to a true crime podcast. Lots of background information provided about the location and the people involved. Would definitely recommend.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Boring

How am author and reader can take an interesting story and make it tedious is remarkable