Charlotte Rowe and her Terminator-like abilities return in this follow-up to Bone Music (2018).
Charlotte “Charley” Rowe, aka “Burning Girl,” was raised by serial-killer couple Daniel and Abigail Banning after they killed her mother and kidnapped her when she was a baby. After she was rescued at age 7, she was returned to her father, who promptly exploited her ordeal for profit. Now she’s an adult living in Altamira, California, with her boyfriend, sheriff’s deputy Luke Prescott, and her life, if anything, has only gotten stranger. Just a few months ago, Noah Turlington, Charley’s therapist (who's not really a therapist) used her to test a drug called Zypraxon without her knowledge, and boy did it work. Using fear as a trigger, each pill gives Charley about three hours of superhuman strength. If all that seems exhausting, just wait. Now, she helps Noah’s employer, pharma millionaire Cole Graydon, neutralize serial killers, who are tracked down by Luke’s cybergenius brother, Bailey. Readers may roll their eyes at the tired scenario of Charley posing as a prostitute in order to get taken by a killer (who, of course, skins his female victims), and, adding insult to injury, she gets set on fire at the culmination of the mission. Don’t worry, though, because Zypraxon ensures full healing. Yep, Charley is a bona fide superhero, but readers hoping for more missions that see Charley taking down serial killers may be disappointed, because Luke and Charley uncover a possible terrorist plot that threatens the town, and for Charley, the danger hits very close to home. More is revealed about Cole, who let his romantic interest in Noah cloud his judgment, and Rice has something to say about the devastating effects of childhood trauma and what makes a monster, but much of it gets lost in an overstuffed narrative that relies heavily on expository dialogue and over-the-top action scenes built for maximum shock value.
The Burning Girl is losing her spark.