It is a hot June night in upscale Orange County, California. When young, beautiful Consuelo Vargas turns up mutilated and left for dead in a strawberry field, the Irvine Police Department and OC Sheriff call in top FBI Forensic pathologist, Catherine (“Cat”) Powers to help solve what turns out to be a string of murders.
Charged with hunting down a twisted serial killer, dubbed the “The Burning Man”, as more bodies turn up, Cat embarks on a dangerous game to try to understand and catch him. Her actions may destroy the people she holds most dear. Her decisions will forever change the lives of those she loves.
Little does she know, "The Burning Man" waits for her, drawing her closer into his web of death, lies and deceit, so that he can take from her the ultimate prize. He waits for her in plain sight forcing her to make a choice no mother should ever have to make.
Taunt with suspense from the first page, "The Burning Man" traces the painfully real struggles of a driven woman torn between her career demands and single motherhood, a family saga involving Cat’s young son and his loss of innocence at the hands of a madman. It explores the unbreakable bond between a mother and her child as they combat pure evil. Driven by a need for the truth, Cat knows that she will do anything to catch this killer and keep those she loves alive.
About the Author
Solange Ritchie is a distinguished trial attorney practicing in Orange County, California. Born of a Jamaican father and a French mother, Solange draws on a rich multi-cultural heritage to add depth and texture to her characters. A life-long fascination with medicine and law and what makes people “tick,” leads to the penning of her first novel, THE BURNING MAN.
Solange has published extensively in legal magazines in the areas of trial practice, civil litigation and related issues.
Read an Excerpt
“Jesus, what the hell is it?” Pete Langley recoiled.
“It’s the damn tooth fairy,” Stone Kilroy said, snapping his bubble gum between his back molars.
Pete stumbled forward, then back, his hand glued to his nose, trying to prevent the stench from consuming what little good air there was left in his lungs. One step forward.
“Don’t go any farther,” Stone grunted, slapping Pete broadside on the back of his head.
“Sorry.” Pete shrugged. “I didn’t mean to screw things up.”
Stone rolled his eyes, wondered if he’d ever teach this rookie how to deal with a crime scene. This was a crime scene. That much was unmistakable. Stone sighed, leaned heavily against the door jamb. Dreading what was inside.
A putrid stench permeated Pete’s nostrils as soon as he thrust his body weight against the dooras real and ominous as the blackness inside. It seemed to take on a life of its own, swirling around him, engulfing him. Pete had only smelled stink like this once before, but he remembered it.
And froze in fear.
Stone Kilroy recognized the stench too, although to him it was more familiar. The smell of death. This case would haunt him, like the others had.
Stone shoved Pete. “Get outta the way. If we only had more time,” he grumbled under his breath. This was the third one of these he had seen in a monthslender, slashed, mid-twenties. When he’d seen the first one, her eyes were dry, wide open to the heavens.
She too had been shredded. Shreddedit was the only way he knew how to describe what he saw, he decided, after he’d seen the second body.
One step farther. The smell intensified, making Stone’s eyes water. That same terrible foreboding. He knew what the smell meant, just didn’t want to deal with it. Didn’t want to find her like this.
Burnt flesh illuminated under his flashlight.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had been cooperating with the Irvine Police Department to locate Consuelo Vargas. Now they had. From the looks of it, someone had made Consuelo’s death personal. Real personal.
“Jesus. . .” His words trailed off, eyes adjusting to the fading twilight.
Stone had a report of lights in this abandoned shed near Trabuco Creek a few days ago. At first he’d thought nothing of it; some kids out in the bush, smoking grass.
In the meantime, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office covered the area around Irvine’s crop fields, where Consuelo worked. Turned up nothing. After repeated efforts canvassing Santa Ana’s Fourth Street, nothing. A search effort that fanned out from Anaheim to Oceanside had led to thisa rundown shack on the edge of a near dried-up riverbed.
Stone checked his gut instinct, breathed heavily in the direction of the body now, his flashlight beam dancing off shadows and flesh.
“Don’t look real, does it?” Pete questioned from behind, voice shaky, his Alabama drawl more pronounced from nerves. Stone heard the boy’s boot meet the wooden floor with a hollow thud.
Stone wheeled round. “Don’t” was the only word he could get out between clenched teeth. “This is a crime scene. . .”
Pete stopped everything, even breathing for a second. Then backed up.
All day long, Stone thought of Consuelo Vargas, wishing he would find her, now reluctant he had. His men had searched for two days, plastering the woman’s face all over the county.
“Connie,” as she was known to her family and friends, had been a person, with kids and a future. In this August heat, no one seemed to notice or care. Stone wiped sweat from his brow. His search had turned up nothing but more questions, leading to pent-up frustration and explosive nerves. At least now that frustration would be over.
People in this community of million-dollar homes had faith in the system, a false sense of security. Consuelo Vargas would shatter that. People here wouldn’t sleep for weeks.
Stone’s gut wrenched. He wasn’t sure it was a woman.
His flashlight raced across the body, the acrid smell of acid eating at his lungs. It was awful. Stone longed for a blanket of clean air, sunlight, freshness.
Pete continued speechless, backing away from the corpse, as if putting distance between him and the body would make a bit of difference.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A serial killer dubbed The Burning Man, due to his use of acid, is on the loose. Dr. Catherine, Cat, Powers is called in to help catch him. With experience with pathological and behavioral forensics she is the perfect person to catch this killer. But she is divided right now. She is divorced and a single mom of her six year old. She has to leave her son with his father to concentrate on this killer. But The Burning Man has started to target Cat. He is playing cat and mouse with her. But then he crosses a line and involves her son. This is an amazing, high tension story. Cat is good at her job but she is struggling as a single mom with her son. But as good as she is in her field, she is still human and some of her choices seem to cause more problems for her than helping her out. The Burning Man is an evil, genius killer type. I wanted more information about him. What happened to make him the way he was? I think this is a killer psychological thriller that is well written and an amazing first book. There were twists and turns that threw me off and kept me in the story. I loved this book and recommend checking it out. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
4.5 stars I am grateful to the author for an ARC of The Burning Man in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you, Ms. Ritchie. The Burning Man is a tremendous debut novel by Ms. Solange Ritchie. The protagonist, Dr. Catherine (Cat) Powers, is a multitalented member of the FBI. She is a physician and has expertise in both pathological and behavorial forensics. The story revolves around Cat’s efforts to bring a serial killer to justice. Her work is complicated by the fact that at this point in her life she is struggling to balance her professional career with her personal life, and this remains a theme throughout the novel. I very much like Cat, a strong woman with complex issues. I do not think we have her entire backstory in this book, and I look forward to learning more about what makes her tick in future novels. The supporting characters are a diverse bunch, and it was fun trying to figure out which of them could be trusted. We are allowed into the head of the bad guy, quite often actually, though it is not until near the end of the book that we discover whom the killer is. I do like this technique as it gives the reader another point of view of the goings on, and in this case, good psychological insight into the villain. The plot is engaging, pacy, and suspenseful with a good measure of psychological overlay. The action scenes in the last chapters are just terrific and will make your heart pound out of your chest. A couple of issues bothered me a bit. First, there are some red herrings thrown into the plot that are never explained. Maybe in the next book? Also, there are a few things that happened that are not totally believable to me. I took off ½ star for these reasons. I rounded down as I expect Ms. Ritchie, now with experience under her belt, to outdo herself next time, incredible as that sounds. Overall, I found The Burning Man to be a captivating thriller, and a superb first effort by Ms. Ritchie. I will definitely read the next book in the Cat Powers series when it becomes available. I highly recommend this novel to all lovers of psychological thrillers and suspense.
It's hard to know where to start! Sometimes starting a book by an author you've never heard of is a 50/50 proposition. There's always hope it's going to be a great read .. but then you're also prepared for it to be something unpalatable at the same time. I got really lucky .. and got my hands on a 5-star book. That's almost unheard of coming from me for a first-time author. Real quick blurb ... Cat Powers is an FBI Forensic Pathologist/Agent who is called in when several young ladies are found dead ... after having been tortured beyond belief. Cat is such a great character.. ideal for a series. (Do you hear that, author?) She is so multi-layered. My imagination just runs wild with ideas. She is single, the mother of a 6-year-old who spends much time with his father while Cat runs around the country hunting killers. She also has just a touch of ESP ... but seemingly only during periods of great stress. There is one sentence in the book that really grabbed my attention .... she once dated a serial killer. There is no other reference to that period of her life, leaving the reader to imagine all sorts of scenarios. Cat is struggling with her life's choices. She loves her job, she loves speaking for the victims, and she loves her son. But is her son being cheated of his mother's presence because of her job? When this particular killer goes after Cat's son when she closes in on him, Cat goes into overdrive. This book is extremely well-written. The last few pages had my heart fluttering and blood pressure soaring. I love the forensic side of things ... gathering information not visible to the naked eye. And I love the backgrounds of the 'bad' guys. It always goes back to nature or nurture. And the sheer action when everything's coming to an end is exquisite. Highly recommended!! Thank You to Solange Ritchie for furnishing me a copy of the book. This one definitely goes on my 'keeper' shelf.
It does not take long for the course of life to drastically change. Cat did not expect such a thing to happen to her when she took up the case of the Burning Man. However things hit home very hard when the case turns personal and someone close get intimately involved in the crime. The story is about a psychotic serial killer and a pathologist who gets too close to catching him. The story is line is decent and maintains enough pace to keep the reader flipping fast through pages. The characters are given enough depth to give background but not too much to make it boring. The flow is steady and almost no flaws in language. Cat is shown as a very strong lady who faces pure evil and manages to come out of it alive. The mood is very dark throughout the book which is in sync with the theme. It gives an authentic feel while reading. Although slightly typical, the story still retains interest. The end of the book feels like a cliff hanger. It seems more is yet to come from Solange Ritchie. I look forward for the continuation, if any.