I've read all of Joseph Wambaugh's books, from THE NEW CENTURIONS to FIRE LOVER, and this was the least enjoyable.
FIRE LOVER probably doesn't measure up because there's not a whole lot of suspense. We know from the synopsis that arson investigator John Orr may have been the most notorious arsonist since Nero. Orr was a brazen offender, setting fires in the middle of the day when customers were in the stores, leading to the death of four at Ole's Home Center in South Pasadena. But he makes one big mistake, leaving his fingerprint on yellow legal paper that was used, along with a cigarette, a rubber band and three matches, to start a fire similar to the one at Ole's Home Center. The fingerprint was almost ignored because of the jealousy between firemen and police arson investigators.
Much of the book involves courtroom gymnastics. There are so many closing statements that you tell yourself, "this must be the last one." But you're wrong. There are more of them during the penalty phase and Wambaugh cites them all, practically verbatim.
Wambaugh is also famous for his irreverent narrative tone. This works in CHOIRBOYS, where we assume the narrator is a man in blue, but here he's supposed to be an objective journalist. He refers to jurors, lawyers, and judges as "...strange fish that lazily glide, blowing gas bubbles that pop ineffectually on the surface of the litigation tanks in which they live and breed." He likes this strange fish motif so much he uses it over and over again.
All of this said, I'm still looking forward to Wambaugh's next fictional tome. It seems an eternity since FLOATERS.