And Then You Die

Face of Deception

The Killing Game

Long After Midnight

The Search

Firestorm by Iris Johansen
(Bantam, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-553-58649-1
At ten-years-old Kerry Murphy and her mother were caught in a house fire. Kerry escaped, but her mother didn’t. Running to get help, Kerry was knocked unconscious by the arsonist. Kerry’s next two years were spent in a coma. After coming out of the coma, Kerry has a psychic ability linked to fire. She can sense how a fire was set and uses her ability as a fire investigator. Since this is not an accepted gift in society, Kerry claims her dog is the arson expert. After all trained arson dogs are used all the time.

Multiple high profile government officials are being killed by fire. The CIA, FBI and Secret Service know who the arsonist is but can’t find him. The arsonist, James Trask, was the head of project Firestorm. Firestorm is a “radio-transmitted method of spontaneous combustion.” This rather far-fetched, unrealistic system supposedly speeds up molecules via radio waves.  

Brad Silver is also a psychic with the ability to read and control other people’s minds. His brother – a senator – and sister-in-law were burned alive inside a limousine. Brad needs Kerry’s help to find Trask and get justice for his brother’s death. The two team up to track and capture Trask. Then Kerry finds herself targeted by Trask.

The problems with Firestorm are the suspense, the characters and the romance. Not much left, is there?

The suspense is predictable and repetitive. Once Trask becomes obsessed with Kerry, he begins to call her with clues to find the next victim. He calls. She and Brad slowly decipher the clues. The victim dies just as Kerry and Brad arrive. Kerry psychically connects to Trask and senses his thrill in the burning flesh. Trask gets away. Repeat several times.  

Kerry is the most annoying character. She’s determined to be independent and self-reliant to the point where she won’t listen to anyone’s suggestions. Anytime someone had something to say, she acts like a five year old who refuses to listen. She spends the entire book griping about how her life has sucked since her coma and about Brad for his having a psychic ability. All her complaints got very old very fast.  

The romance is severely lacking. Kerry doesn’t trust Brad, which she tells him over and over and over. Brad puts up with her complaints, her lack of trust, and her childishness because that’s what a romantic suspense hero is supposed to do. There is obviously no other reason why. Their alleged feelings for each other are not apparent in their actions and communications. But of course they end up in bed together anyway.  

If you like predictable plots and unlikable characters, try Firestorm. Otherwise pick up a different book.

--Terry Lawrence

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