Kyle Mills earned an enthusiastic following with three novels featuring maverick FBI agent Mark Beamon: Rising Phoenix, Storming Heaven, and Free Fall. If anything, Burn Factor is an even faster-paced ride through the hidden agendas of bureaucracy and the misuse of government power. Featuring Quinn Barry, a lowly FBI employee who must buck the system in order to stop a sadistic murderer, the novel is a finely plotted tale of FBI corruption that unfolds in expert fashion, revealing that despite wealth, influence, and high office, it only takes one small computer glitch to unveil misconduct in the ranks of law enforcement.
In an effort to work her way up through the ranks of the FBI, Barry sets her sights on updating the agency's CODIS computer systems. CODIS contains all the DNA evidence of crimes committed on a state-to-state basis, and Quinn attempts to connect all the information into one huge national database. When she runs a test on her new software she discovers that the DNA samples of five unsolved murders match one another. The trouble is that the original CODIS program was set up to ignore this one killer, proving that the FBI not only knows of his existence but encourages his hideous activities.
Unsure if she can trust her immediate supervisors, Quinn begins investigating the case alone. Despite many suspects in each of the individual cases, only one man lacks an alibi for all of them: the brilliant mathematician and artist Eric Twain. Ten years earlier, when Eric was a teenage prodigy, he was arrested for the murder of his assistant, although charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. After brazenly making contact with Eric and stealing hair samples, she learns that he is innocent of the slayings and may in fact be her only confidant. When Quinn's car is sabotaged and she's attacked by a government assassin, she and Eric decide to team up and bring down a clandestine force working in the shadow of the agency itself.
With a spare prose style that oozes authenticity, Mills offers up a rugged piece of fiction in which the chapters breeze by at high speed and the reader actually learns something about the life of a lower-tier FBI employee. The ever-tightening plotlines draw together layers of private and professional conflicts, revealing the hidden sides of both protagonists and villains.
Mills knows his characters and their situations, and he understands how best to let true investigative procedure form the essence of the narrative. He manages to use a natural ambiance to underscore the most shocking events and suspenseful elements, and the ring of truth helps make the novel so entertaining. Burn Factor deserves wide attention, as Kyle Mills again demonstrates that he is a noteworthy voice in the field. (Tom Piccirilli)
Tom Piccirilli is the author of eight novels, including Hexes and Shards, and his Felicity Grove mystery series, consisting of The Dead Past and Sorrow's Crown. He has sold more than 100 stories to the anthologies Future Crimes, Bad News, The Conspiracy Files, and Best of the American West II. An omnibus collection of 40 stories titled Deep into That Darkness Peering is also available. Tom divides his time between New York City and Estes Park, Colorado.