Why would the FBI want to cover up a link between five unsolved murders, especially a link as telling as matching DNA recovered from every one of the crime scenes? That's the premise of Kyle Mills's Burn Factor
. Instead of his usual hero, FBI agent Mark Beamon, the author introduces Quinn Barry, a relatively low-level analyst for the agency who stumbles across what at first looks like a glitch in the computer's forensics program. But of course it's not--the serial killer protected by the powers that be is a truly mad scientist who's indispensable to the completion of a top-secret weapons project. Quinn, whose lifelong ambition is to move up in the ranks and become a full-fledged FBI agent, is transferred out of her programming job as soon as she brings the link to the attention of superiors. But the plucky woman ignores their warnings and enlists the aid of another scientific genius, who also happens to be the chief suspect in at least one of the gruesome murders she's intent on solving.
Burn Factor is big on implausible and illogical plot twists, and small on characterizations. We never learn enough about Quinn to understand why she puts her career (not to mention her life) in jeopardy, even as evidence of a massive cover-up continues to mount and her boyfriend, a CIA agent, turns out to be a willing accomplice to the conspirator-in-chief. Fans of Mills's previous novels (Rising Phoenix, Storming Heaven, Free Fall) who keep waiting for Beamon to show up and save the day will be disappointed, especially since the author doesn't quite succeed in making Quinn Barry as appealing a protagonist. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
An FBI computer programmer with no law enforcement training leads her own wildcat search for a serial murderer, stumbling across a secret government plot in the process, in this outlandish thriller by an author capable of much better. While still settling in to her new job at the FBI, computer jockey and aspiring agent Quinn Barry discovers what appears to be a serial killer case that nobody's investigating. When she brings it to the attention of her boss, Barry is not only ignored but demoted. As a result, the quick-tempered, impulsive 26-year-old decides to investigate on her own. Her first move: venturing alone at night to the remote home of sinister Eric Twain, a suspect in one of the killings. Barry, still suspicious of Twain, nonetheless teams up with him to track down the killer, who tortures young women who fit a certain physical profile not surprisingly, Barry matches it before raping and killing them. Along the way, Barry becomes adept at all sorts of investigative techniques. She cuts glass to get into homes, theorizes about the psychology of mass murder and fights off several attackers before discovering that the case may be rooted in a highly classified government nuclear defense program. Mills has written several smart, classically conceived thrillers (Rising Phoenix; Free Fall) starring the always fascinating Mark Beamon, a disgraced FBI agent trying to fight his way back into the bureau's good graces. With his latest, Mills has created a main character who strains credibility from the start and a brittle plot that eventually drifts into a tedious chronicle of sexual sadism. (Apr.)Forecast: One misstep won't derail Mills's promising career, particularly since HarperCollins is backing this book with a five-city author tour, national advertising and lavish promotion plans, plus simultaneous abridged and unabridged audio versions, as well as a large-print edition. But expect a loss of momentum once early readers report back on this disappointing effort.
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