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The Rat On Fire

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  163 ratings  ·  21 reviews
He was a slumlord and lawyer and nobody's fool-and neither were the tenants who lived in Jerry Fein's rotting buildings. They weren't paying rent-why should they when the rats lived there for free?
Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2001 by Robinson (first published February 12th 1981)
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Justin Sorbara-Hosker
So I'm not new to the fact that the only thing that interests GVH is the way people (mainly scumbags) talk. Of his stuff that I've read, 90% is dialogue. Rat on Fire retains that ratio, but ups the ante in a way - the entire book is building to a criminal event. After 150 pages, the event is about to take place in the following chapter - and the next chapter is describing ... the aftermath. He cares so little about action that he SKIPS IT ENTIRELY. Odd, but not really a problem - the book is sti ...more
Allan MacDonell
People don’t play fair in the Boston underworld of George V. Higgins. To live outside the law and avoid being lit up like some skell on a skewer in The Rat on Fire, you must be dishonest—that’s a given. But dishonesty alone is not enough to save Higgins’s ill-intentioned malefactors from a flaring demise. One complicating factor is that an aptitude for deceit is also prevalent among the cops who play foil to the crooks. Furthermore, credible intentions are difficult to discern in the attorneys w ...more
Scott McKenzie
Five word review: Nothing but dialogue. Freakin' hilarious
Sean Owen
"The Rat On Fire" by George V. Higgins is the concerns a group of unsavory landlords and thugs planning an arson and a group of state troopers trying to catch them. In classic Higgins fashion nearly the entire book is dialogue with a bit of description setting up each conversation. Any action that happens is presented after the fact in a conversation where one character describes it to another.

Higgins is an absolute master at the particular Boston brand of thug/cop conversational style. The boo
I love character and dialogue driven plots so this one should be 5/5 and it actually was for the first third or so. But the whole setup takes way too long before some action finally kicks off and by then it loses a lot of its initial momentum. Also dialogs become repetitive, tedious and too long so at times it feels like you are stuck inside some endless monologues. It still works and plot sticks together but everything simply becomes a bit boring to be honest.

Good and interesting stuff, but it
Gary Baughn
Another excellent Higgins noirish story, with even more dialogue than usual, if you can count one monologue after another from various crooks and cops as dialogue.
This one revolves around contemplated arson, hence the title, The Rat on Fire, which is literal and metaphorical since there is a slum landlord and his crooked lawyer among the low-lifes with which Higgins populates his novels. Much of the dialogue is not politically correct, but it is hilarious, and Ring Lardner would approve of much
Shane Kiely
Takes a bit of getting used to the style, in certain instances there are more than one conversation going on in a scene & the perspective shifts without warning & the first few times it happens it can be a little difficult to track who's who. Being a story concerning arson there isn't a lot in the way of action but that's more than made up for by the dense (almost convoluted but in a good way) dialogue exchanges which paint's the character quite vividly. I'd say 80 percent of the page le ...more

Incisiva, mordaz, tajante. De calidad. Así es la literatura que prodiga Libros del Asteroide y así nos lo demuestran una vez más publicando el que posiblemente sea uno de los libros más desternillantes e ingeniosos que he leído en mucho tiempo. En La rata en llamas, George V. Higgins hace escarnio de una problemática comunidad de vecinos que dejaría en bragas a la del mítico 'Aquí no hay quién viva' para deleitarnos con una novela compuesta casi exclusivamente de diálogos donde salen a relu
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

No es la primera vez que hablo de George V. Higgins; a propósito de la publicación de su segunda novela lo incluí en este artículo; entonces ensalzaba su capacidad para crear diálogos y caracterizar personajes mediante ellos. No es que haya cambiado la forma de hacerlo en este “La rata en llamas” que nos trae Libros del asteroide; muy al contrario, todas sus virtudes siguen ahí, no hay más que echar un vistazo a este diálogo para darse cuenta,
Miguel Alcázar
[...] Diálogos, diálogos y más diálogos. En esta novela de 1981 está más jodido encontrar un párrafo en tercera persona que una aguja en un pajar de paja plateada (creed que el segundo párrafo del extracto anterior es una auténtica rareza, de cuando aún no se habría decidido su autor por el estilo final de la novela) ya que la mayoría de sus capítulos están únicamente compuestos por la plática entre dos o más de los pobres diablos que con mucho acierto se inventó el barbudo escritor norteamerica ...more
A consistent, if abruptly concluded, crime story following the various parties involved in plotting an arson-for -insurance fraud, the internal affairs task force investigating a crooked fire marshal and one working class family with the misfortune of literally being caught in the crossfire. The star here, as always, is Higgins' machine gun dialogue filled with two-bit menace and practically sweating with desperation.
Mátalos suavemente me pareció un poco floja en comparación con Los amigos de Eddie Coyle, así que tenía miedo de que éste tercer título siguiera la estela de bajada. Pues no, me ha parecido muy buena, una novela mordaz y genial, con esos diálogos tan perfectos que plagan la novela de principio a fin, llenos de ironía y mala leche. Higgins en estado puro.
Closer to 3.25. The thing with Higgins is that his dialogue is top-notch and so is the build-up but when you bite into it there's little else.
Tim Lockfeld
After being thrilled with 'Cogan's Trade' and 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle' I was sure dissapointed with 'Rat on Fire' (To spoil a plot twist it's name comes from the way they commit the arson). It has the same type of slangy Boston dialog with little in the way of explanation that made the two earlier books so fun to read. This book however contains characters with so little meat on their bones it is hard to care about them. Again you have the cops watching the bad guys as they go about their bu ...more
David Tybor
Man what a wizard this guy is with dialogue. I think there were only 9 sentences in this book that weren't in quotes. If you've ever lived in Boston, definitely pick up one of his early books

This is what many are wary of with Higgins' works: it's something that damn near reads as a wiretap transcript, and not entertainingly so. Where "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" seemed to move along with purpose, in this story, the characters monologue seemingly without end, and the story seemed to conclude too abruptly at the finish. I had a pervasive feeling of "Who cares?" when reading this book - it really, truly lacked a hook. I thought I would end up caring if the characters would ever get aro
At first I was delighted again by the commitment to dialogue (it opens with a three page rant by a AG Investigator that tickled me pink). But so little happens in the book, the characters are not fleshed out very well, and the use of "nigger" was so incessant (as well as the attitudes within) (even though I was aware from a young age of how deeply racist Boston is and thus don't fault Higgins for portraying it), I tired quickly of it and therefore was pleased to reach the end, as disappointingly ...more
False Millennium
I continue to read my way through Higgins. This book returns to Boston and the criminal and legal elements of the city of early 1980. There is a bit more plot, but his books continue to deliver heavy on dialogue...and he does have a good ear for it, but I think a writer should strive for "balance." I wasn't as pulled into this book as much as I was Eddie Coyle or Cogan's Trade. But. I continue to read.
Dated 'modern' noir--I found others to work the genre in a much more satisfying manner.
Great dialog but a little tough to follow until you get used to it. Fun read.

2nd higgins best after "the friends of eddie coyle"
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George Vincent Higgins was a United States author, lawyer, newspaper columnist, and college professor. He is best known for his bestselling crime novels.
More about George V. Higgins...
The Friends of Eddie Coyle Cogan's Trade The Digger's Game Kennedy for the Defense (Jerry Kennedy, #1) At End of Day

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