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. “Damn.” 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.