Playing with fire
Half mystery, half psychological (bordering on supernatural) thriller, Iris Johansen's Firestorm is an explosive thriller chock-a-block with espionage, weapons of mass destruction, a raging psychopath or two, and a pair of psychic arson investigators. For Kerry Murphy, arson investigation is a natural profession. As a child, she barely escaped from the burning building in which her mother lost her life. For Brad Silver, flames have an equally destructive connotation: his brother, a noted U.S. senator, was murdered in a deliberately set automobile fire. Silver knows the identity of the murderer, and he needs the help of the unsuspecting Kerry Murphy to bring the man to justice (let it be noted that we are not talking about court-style justice here, rather Old Testament justice). Silver has an ace up his sleeve: he possesses the gift of imposing suggestions into another's mind, and he intends to use that to his advantage with Kerry. Trouble is, neither Kerry nor the reader entirely trusts Silver's motivations, and there the roller coaster ride begins. The psychic abilities of the protagonists may appear far-fetched to some, but the pace is electrifying, and the interaction of the characters is intriguing (do you have any idea how appealing it would have been to use the adjective "combustible" here?). Firestorm is a book that proves difficult to put down; you always want to read "just one more chapter," even as the book draws to a close.