5 stars out of 5
When I was offered the chance to get this book for 99 cents as an "earned credit" at Amazon.com, I read the synopsis, checked customer reviews and learned that author Alan Russell, the author of 10 books, has won several writing awards. Satisfied that my almost-dollar probably wouldn't be wasted (and any event it wasn't a lot to lose), I downloaded it. When I ran out of other things I wanted to read a couple of months later, I decided to find out if I'd won or lost.
And wow! This, my friends, is (pun intended) a real sizzler. Not only did I have trouble putting it down, but the closer I got to the end the more I realized I didn't want it to.
The story begins as LAPD officer Michael Gideon and his K-9 partner, dubbed Sirius, are reassigned to head up a new Special Cases unit after suffering bad burns while capturing a serial killer, who was severely burned as well and now on death row. Essentially, Gideon is told, they'll take on out-of-the-ordinary cases, and the first is a doozy: a teenage boy is found crucified in a city park. At the same time, the body of a days-old infant - apparently left in a box to die by an uncaring mother - turns up near a bridge. Gideon identifies with the infant and vows to find the mother and see that she's prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Juggling those two cases - one official and one unofficial - forces Gideon to come to grips with demons of his own (not the least of which are recurring dreams of burning alive). And, he must deal with an ongoing, but reluctant, relationship with the serial killer, who may hold the key to the boy's murder. Complicating matters even more is a budding romantic relationship with a woman who has made it her job to see that abandoned babies are not forgotten.
There's no shortage of blood and guts stuff here, and it helps that Gideon is a bit of a jokester (well, no belly laughs for me, but I admit to chuckling at quite a few of the one-liners and groaning at a few others). Gideon tends to defuse situations, including his own reluctance to deal with his own emotions, with humor, and it really works.
Burning Man by Alan Russell (Thomas & Mercer, December 2012); 328 pp.