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Burn before reading: Bay Ridge fire investigator pens hot new novel

Nothing up her sleeve: Shelly Reuben with her new novel “The Boys Of Sabbath Street” outside her house in Bay Ridge.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Shelly Reuben’s writing career began with a burning curiosity.

Over 30 years ago, the Bay Ridge author became enthralled by a newspaper article about two boys in Manhattan who were being celebrated because they had saved a number of people from fires started by arsonists.

“I was so intrigued by the two boys and the follow-up, which I thought would make a great book,” said the Bay Ridge local.

Reuben’s inquisitiveness would ultimately shape her life and career. She contacted the fire marshals investigating the blazes and began doing research with the New York Fire Department, where she met her late husband.

Rueben became certified as both a fire investigator and private investigator, and eventually began her own private arson investigation business with her husband. And in 1998, she released the first of many mystery novels inspired by her work.

Now, more than three decades after article that started everything, Reuben has finally written a novel inspired by those two boys.

“The Boys of Sabbath Street”, which Reuben will introduce and sign at Bay Ridge’s BookMark Shoppe on April 19, is the author’s ninth book. The novel centers around a reluctant arson detective, who is the assistant to a semi-retired magician and the mayor of the town of Calendar, where the novel takes place. The story follows the duo around as they work with the local fire marshal to investigate how and why the small town seems to be burning down.

Reuben said she wanted to incorporate her life experiences into the story without making it too much of a focus.

“The hardest thing was keeping a light touch so that my readers are learning a whole lot about fire investigation and they won’t even notice they’re learning it,” she said.

The book is also inspired by one specific fire that Reuben and her late husband worked on over 12 years ago in Hoboken, she said.

“I took photographs of the local fire department and the city hall and I put them in the file with my book ‘The Boys of Sabbath Street,’ ” she said. “The fire investigation I did in Hoboken completely created the entire town of Calendar where all of the action takes place in the book.”

“The Boys of Sabbath Street” at the BookMark Shoppe [8415 Third Ave. between 84th and 85th streets in Bay Ridge, (718) 833–5115, www.bookmarkshoppe.com]. April 19 at 5 pm. Free.

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