The Burning Man is Solange Ritchie’s debut novel, featuring dr. Catherine (Cat) Powers, a FBI forensic pathologist working in the Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico.
There is a serial killer on the lose and Cat is sent to Orange County-Irvine, California, to assist the local police force in apprehending him. She is divorced with a 6 years old son, whom she leaved with Mark, her ex while she is on the job away from home.
Cat is very good at her job and loves what she does. And as any other woman who is literally married to her career with a small child at home, she is torn between doing her job and leaving her son so often alone.
This time, however, she has no choice because the killings are especially gruesome and her expertise is dearly needed. Several young women have been murdered and grossly mutilated with an almost identical MO, pointing to one horrific and cruel serial killer, called The Burning Man, who manages to go undetected until long after the crimes have been committed.
This is not your average serial killer, and Cat’s expertise might be just enough to draw out the killer, but it might also be just enough to put herself and her family in mortal danger.
The story flows nicely, the plot is suspenseful and the thriller is well written with a lot of edge of you seat scenes. There some gory descriptions of the mutilated bodies, which appeals to every lover of CSI style books or movies.
Often while reading the book I was reminded by another favorite forensic pathologist, Kay Scarpetta, although they are very different women.
Cat loves both her work and her child. The book focuses quite often on her struggle with balancing her work and her family life, portraying her as a real life woman with real life problems like each and every one of us has at one point or another.
Quite often we also get a glimpse into the mind of the killer and his/her motivations. However only at the end we learn of their identity. By being as sharp as she is and by being so good at her job, Cat put herself in the direct view of the killer, making her his ultimate target.
All this cat and mouse play, along with the author giving us ample insights into the minds of Cat and the killer, make the story quite the psychological thriller.
The writing flows smoothly and I was surprised to learn that the author hasn’t written another book before. I didn’t see many of those beginner author’s awkward dances with words which you find so often in debut works. There were some spelling mistakes, however this is not unheard of with early galley copies which didn’t pass yet a final editing and printing.
There were a few threads started and never expanded or explored – like Cat’s 6th sense, which I was quite curious about, yet my curiosity was never satisfied. I hope the next books in the series will tackle this, along with giving us a background story about Cat how she obtained her extrasensoory perception gifts. Maybe an early life trauma or a gift lingering in the family?
Overall The Burning Man was a rewarding book, well worth the read. It kept my attention throughout the whole book with great characters and a well fleshed out and suspenseful book.