Author: Solange Ritchie
Publisher: Morgan James Publisher
In Solange Ritchie's debut haunting novel, The Burning Man a serial killer is on the loose leaving in his path grossly mutilated bodies of young women who are turning up in South Orange County, California. This monstrous killer seems capable of ditching his victims in such a state that it even shakes up well-seasoned homicide detectives when they arrive at the scene of the crimes. And that is just the beginning as the killer has a knack of disappearing and taunting the law enforcement investigators with his chosen method of death. If you are looking for clues, the only ones he leaves are gashes, not deep penetrating wounds, but multiple small incisions about an inch into the skin of his victims. He also uses sulfuric acid which was not the commercial grade that contains 98 percent H2S04, but rather the fuming kind, commonly called Oleum, which was up to 80 percent pure. To boot, he writes messages into the corpses' heads and then sends them out to sea.
Thirty-eight year old Dr. Catherine (Cat) Powers, the FBI's brilliant and chief forensic pathologist out of Quantico, Virginia, who has been trained not only in forensic medicine but also in the field of behavioral sciences, is assigned as the top investigator of the Burning Man case as it is now called. Cases of this nature are not new to Catherine who acknowledges that the business she is involved in is one embroiled in blood and bodies reflecting the terrors that exist in the world that we cannot comprehend. Nonetheless, Catherine is quite confident that her knowledge of the art of profiling and understanding the nature of the beast coupled with her instinctual approach will outwit this mad serial killer.
Relentlessly and with the help of a host of intriguing characters Catherine pursues this mindless, satanic creature whom she realizes will continue to kill until he himself is killed. Using her vast amount of knowledge in behavorial science she begins to piece together a picture of the murders from the perspective of the killer. She analyzes his possible physical traits, sexual preferences, habits, and personality hoping that a correlative match would arise that would give her that one break she badly needs. In addition, Catherine also splits up the components of pre-and post-offensive behavior where it is ascertained that the majority of the mutilation is before death. The killer enjoys watching them cry out while they are alive as his motive is to inflict pain.
Obsessed with the case, Catherine's personal life suffers particularly that she is divorced with a six-year old son who hardly sees his mom. It was also this obsession for justice that cost her husband and her their marriage or as her husband succinctly states, “it had killed the young, naive girl he had fallen in love with, and in her place had put a woman so driven to find truth that she destroyed and alienated everything dear to her in life.”
I applaud Ritchie for
crafting a fluid, snaky thriller of great momentum that drives the
boundaries of noir almost to the edge of darkness. And quite
impressive is her strong, controlled writing replete with concrete
images that no doubt may not be for readers who have a squeamish
disposition. Nonetheless, you have to admit that there is something
to say about the macabre fascination with serial killers that some of
us have which is similar to the same reason that we will stop our
cars to stare at an horrendous automobile accident along the highway.
In the end we have a one-sitting darkly seductive tale that
captivates and surprises all the way to its chilling conclusion.