A serial killer leaves a college coed to die in the California desert, his signature of fire seared into her flesh....
A beautiful Chinese-American detective, recently transferred from Chinatown to the Upper West Side, is assigned a routine missing-persons case...
A famous doctor returns home from a lecture to discover that his actress wife has been living a secret life....
Now, the paths of the cop, the killer, and the psychiatrist are about to converge....
A savage killer is on the loose in New York City. His calling card is a tattoo of flames; his trail of victims leads from the scorched sands of Californa to
the blistering heart of Manhattan.
Only Detective April Woo can block this vicious madman's next move. And with the help of psychiatrist Jason Frank, this NYPD policewoman will prove that the predator she's hunting is no ordinary killer--but then, April Woo is no ordinary cop.
From the Paperback edition.
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On her last day in San Diego Ellen Roane lay on the beach and reached out her arms to the dazzling sun as if it were a lover she could catch and hold tight forever. Out here you could see the sun setting and the moon rising at the same time. The moon was impressive in its cold, far-off brilliance, but the sun was right there complete in the way passion was, providing everything needed for a lifetime in a single moment.
Ellen soaked it in, trying to make all her anxieties about college and her parents' separation melt into the sand around her. Even this far away it wasn't easy to do. There was so much aggravation all the time, so much yelling. Just hearing either one of them say her name these days was enough to give her a headache.
The sea was calm, too calm for surfers, but they paddled their boards out there anyway, waiting for a wave. Ellen watched them and wondered how many times her mother had tried to call her. By now she would have her father in a state, too.
Ellen smiled to herself at how clever she was. She had crossed the country by herself to have an adventure and think things through. It amazed her how easy it had been. All she had to do was flash the credit cards her father had given her when she moved out in the fall. And suddenly she knew what it was like to be a grown-up. She could go anywhere, do anything she wanted, buy anything. It was extraordinary. All she had to do was fly away, and for the first time in her life her parents couldn't pick up the phone and reach into her brain.
The relief was extreme. She turned over to toast on the other side, thinking the thing over. She was getting ready to pick someone up. After two days of eating meals on her own, sleeping in The Coral Reef Bed & Breakfast, and going to the beach, that was all that was left to do.
At noon she had lunch at a tiny health food place across the street from the beach. She took a long walk, then settled back down on the sand and closed her eyes. She couldn't help thinking the deep warmth of the California sun was almost mystical in its healing power. New York was soul-destroying in every way. Mean and gray and cold. Now that she knew that, she knew she should have come to college here, escaped all the way instead of just moving a few blocks uptown. She checked her watch, wondering when the guy would come back
She didn't mind that he didn't make his move the first time he saw her two days ago. She was tired of people crowding her. This guy hung back. She knew she was gorgeous. Maybe he was shy. She kind of liked that. He watched her from the parking lot, leaning against his motorcycle. He always wore shades, but she could feel his eyes on her, feel him centered on her absolutely. It was a pleasant feeling, like something out of the movies.
Her mother liked to say a beautiful girl like Ellen could pick and choose among men. Why look down when it was just as easy to look up. If she were here she'd tell Ellen to look for intellectual ability, maybe head for the mountain where the Palomar Observatory was and make some celestial discovery in the way of a balding astronomer from the California Institute of Technology. Ellen snorted at the thought of her mother turned on by intellectuals whose only hair sprouted from their ears and noses. It was a proven fact that brilliant men were arrogant, self-involved, and ugly. And none of them could see well enough to admire her.
Ellen liked the one who took her in whole, the one who didn't come down on the beach with a lot of little-boy toys and pass her by with sliding glances. This guy was blond and older than a kid, definitely a movie-star type. He wore a black shirt and black jeans and had the most amazing motorcycle she had ever seen, a huge, glistening chrome-and-maroon thing. She began to worry that he wouldn't come back.
But at four-thirty, just as she was getting tired of lying around, he was there, up by the parking area staring at her. She waited for a few more minutes before getting up to leave. Slowly she pulled on her jeans and shirt. Then she walked up to the retaining wall where she sat for a minute to brush off the sand and put on her shoes. He approached her there.
"Want to go for a ride?" He indicated the machine parked behind him with a wave of his hand.
She tossed her blond hair and looked him over as if she might really be considering it. Finally she said, "Sure, why not?" and followed him to the motorcycle.
She didn't become uneasy even when the ride took her way east into the dry mountainous area of the North Country. She wasn't frightened when he stopped far off the road, miles from the last passing car. It wasn't until he grabbed her unexpectedly from behind and wrestled her to the ground, pulling at her clothes, that the sharp jolt of adrenaline shot through her. And even then she wasn't terrified. Boys had jumped on her before, lost control and bullied their way into her. Sometimes a girl gambled and lost. It was an old story
When he started mumbling and hitting her and shoving himself into places in her body nothing had ever been before, it got to be different. Suddenly he was not like a person anymore. She couldn't talk to him, or fight back in any way. His face was frozen in rage and every part of him was a weapon. He moved her around, twisting her body one way and then another on the rocky ground, trying new things to make her scream louder, beg him to stop. They were little things at first. Then he broke her arm at the elbow, cracked her ribs, and crushed her cheekbone. He kept at it for a long time
Finally he staked her to the darkening desert ground, her legs together and her arms out straight like a flattened Christ. Until then she thought she would survive. He had a knife, but he didn't stab her. All the time he was hitting her he had it with him, sometimes in his hand. He made motions with it, but he didn't stab her. Now she thought he would do it, make all the cuts he threatened to make. She was so afraid of the knife she could hardly breathe
Then suddenly he seemed to forget the knife. He started doing something else, getting things, muttering to himself. He lit some kind of torch, and a blast of light shot up into the sky. The explosion of heat and light lasted only seconds. Then the flame was extinguished.
He said something that she didn't hear because she was screaming so loud. He put his foot on her stomach to stop her bucking, and lowered the glowing brand exactly in the middle of her heaving chest. It made a hissing sound as it seared her skin off, eating the soft tissue of her breasts in some places all the way to the bone. Her screams and the smell of burning flesh rose all around.
After she lost consciousness, he untied her and left Ellen Roane nude in the gully, as the desert temperature dropped steadily, and her wounds began to weep.
From the Paperback edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I purchased this book because of the description on the back cover - specifically because of the line 'April Woo is no ordinary detective'. I have not read anything else by this author before. Well, the entire book I was waiting for her to show me something extraordinary about Detective April Woo, but in fact, the character began to bug me with every page. So did all the other characters. There was not one character with whom I became engaged. By the middle of the book, I began to skip ahead, hoping to find someone to care about or something different about this detective. Nope. I would not recommend this particular book.