The Firebug of Balrog County
By David Oppegaard
Flux, $11.99, 312 pages Format: Trade
(4.5 / 5)
When his mother dies from cancer, Mack Druneswald tries to ease the pain by setting fires around his small town. As the firebug inside him grows hungrier and more ambitious, Mack deals with the trials of high school, his devastated sister and father, and his infatuation with a strange college girl named Katrina. But when his latest act of arson attracts unexpected attention, Mack finds himself in a curious game of cat and mouse with the law and the firebug within.
The Firebug of Balrog County burns hot and fast, gazing into the heart of a tragic moment and the odd ways in which we confront it. Mack is a marvelous narrator, full of humor and self-awareness and insight despite his many flaws. He inhabits the weirdly insular world we all did as teenagers, and even if we didn’t all turn arsonist, there’s plenty to identify with.
Although the book’s climax was inevitable, the path there (and the actual concluding circumstances) were unexpected and deeply satisfying. Every character felt real and consistent, Mack especially so. I would easily consider this book the equal of Oppegaard’s much-heralded The Suicide Collectors.
Reviewed by Glenn Dallas. Original review link is here.