His name is Philip Dempster. Where he goes, fire follows. Investigating a number of phony “churches”, Dempster becomes caught up in a web of intrigue, arson, and murder. Shortly after he visits each tabernacle, the building goes up in flames – often with the preacher still inside. Each time, Dempster is found near the fire, not knowing what he is doing there or why he is wandering the night-darkened streets. Each night, Philip Dempster dreams of flames and death. Is Dempster the firebug or merely an innocent victim? He must learn the truth before his sanity crumbles to white-hot ash.
Robert Bloch intrigues me. Of course, he’s probably best known as the guy who wrote the novel Psycho, which was turned into the Alfred Hitchock classic film. Which is why it’s been kind of a hobby of mine to find more obscure and lesser-known titles written by him. Firebug was one of the titles I came across, a paperback re-issue by Tor back in the 1980s when they released Psycho House on that publishing label, in an obscure used book shop tucked in an out-of-the-way store front in a small town in Kansas.
Firebug is a different kind of psychological thriller, more of a noir mystery that admittedly does drag a bit in certain places, but does a decent job at keeping the mystery going until the end. I can’t say that this was the best thing that I’ve read from the author, but it’s not too bad for a quick mystery chiller.