Charlie Johnson in the Flames
By Michael Ignatieff
(Grove, $22)
October 17, 2003

Journalist and Booker Prize nominee Ignatieff (Scar Tissue) tells a riveting tale that takes on the prickly ethical issue of when, if ever, a journalist should get involved. The drama centers on the quest of the title character, a seasoned but reckless war correspondent who, after trying to save a local woman set on fire on the Kosovo-Serbia border, becomes obsessed with finding the culprit. The physical details are cinematic in their visceral precision–the burning woman possesses "a complex aroma of womanhood, sweat, urine and the sweetness of meat." Ignatieff never rushes, making his deliberate, philosophical way from the adrenaline-surged first chapter to the chilling, poignant conclusion. A-