Author: Solange Ritchie

Publisher: Stony Hill Publishers

ISBN: 978-1-947835-03-0

If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers about serial killers and pyromaniacs, Solange Ritchie's novel, Firestorm is a “doozy,” with one caveat,  if you have a queasy stomach, this one may not be your cup of tea.

We are pulled into the story with Ritchie's four principal characters moving the plot along in such a way as to keep us itching to know how they will complete their journeys, particularly if there are obstacles in their way.

Ritchie well understands that one of the most compelling forces in writing a good novel is movement for it arouses the reader's natural curiosity as to how will the story end. No doubt, movement raises many questions and readers invariably want to know the answers, which is the key to Firestorm.

Ritchie's characters consist of two criminally insane males, Eric, a serial killer and David, an arsonist. There is also very strong female character,Catherine “Cat” Powers, an FBI forensic pathologist, who has amazing inner strength that allows her to rise above the most dreadful and degrading experiences. She teams up with police detective, Jim McGregor to solve the hideous and horrendous crimes committed by Eric and David.

The story unfolds when Cat receives a large yellow manila envelope and upon opening it discovers a lock of hair, which turns out to be the same color as her son's Joey. In the envelope is also a large 8-by-11 black-and-white photograph of Joey being restrained in the back of an SUV, his eyes wide with fear. In addition, there is a second envelope containing a message with the following capitalized words: “I am luckiest man alive. I will see you soon, my dear. You have never been far from my thoughts. Through this last year, you have been with me. Enclosed is a memento from my with with Joey.” The message is signed Eric.

Apparently, the previous year Eric had kidnapped Joey and almost killed Cat, who as a result, had to undergo surgery to her shattered left hand. After a year in seclusion, Eric is back and once again is about to continue committing hideous murders. His method of operating is picking up young girls and taking them to the Cleveland National Park where he rapes and mutilates them. In addition, he is obsessed with Cat and blames her for his loss of his home and career as well as forcing him to go in hiding for a year.

Cat immediately returns to California and teams up with Detective McGregor to begin their pursuit of Eric and to put him away for good.

Into the narrative enters David, who happens to be a fire captain and finds it fascinating to set brush fires admiring the way they move and the noises they make.

We discover that David met Eric, a medical doctor, about five years ago while he was wheeling in someone to Hoag Hospital's burn ward. It was love at first sight as each recognized a kindred spirit in the other. Both, incidentally, are products of abusive childhoods. Eric recognized his fellow madman and the two immediately hit it off eventually becoming lovers. We are informed that when Eric went “underground” it was David who had provided a roof over his head, a new car and a new look. Moreover, they both shared the need to hunt and be hunted and to live each day with one purpose, pure evil.

Ritchie permeates her novel with an extraordinary amount of terror, suspense, anxiety, fear, and even horrors of revulsion, particularly when you read some of the shocking descriptive scenes of Eric's victims. In addition, Ritchie's characters are not relying on their physical strengths to defeat their enemies, but rather on their mental resources. Conflicts between Cat, Eric and David are played out through mind games, deception and manipulation.

What really emerges in the novel is Ritchie's superb command of tension and the building of momentum as she keeps her readers guessing about the nature of Eric and David's actions and foreseeing horrific developments at every major point in the yarn.

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Solange Ritchie