Mills sets aside Mark Beamon, the exiled FBI profiler of his first three novels (Free Fall, 2000, etc.), for fledgling Bureau researcher Quinn Barry.
Too bad she’s not a more compelling heroine, however, because the author delays until mid-novel before revealing his serial-killer villain, Dr. Edward Marin, a Hannibal Lecter rip-off and suavely sybaritic supergenius (winner of the Nobel Prize for a scientific paper so original that it had no footnotes) with superhuman strength. Marin’s great joy lies in tying down sophisticated young women, making small cuts all over their bodies with an X-Acto knife, then raping them while they bleed. The “burn factor” refers to a squad that the baddies send around to clean up after Marin’s murders because he’s their indispensable theorist for a Star Wars laser weapon. While testing and cleaning up the FBI’s new CODIS database for collecting DNA from crimes nationwide, Barry finds that identical DNA evidence links five similar murders. Her boss says she’s in error and quickly transfers her to Quantico, the FBI training school, for scut work. Barry, a keen profiler but no Clarice Starling, has a crush on becoming a full-fledged FBI agent, but she knows her research is being quashed. When she gets a hair from another supergenius, Eric Twain, she proves that he was viciously accused of one murder. As Twain and Barry team up to uncover the identity of the true killer, we wonder only when the monster will bequeath to Barry his smiling Hannibalisms from a serene mountaintop of superior wisdom. Mills drives his novel straight into a brick wall painted with Anthony Hopkins’s face; nor can he equal the gothic glamour of Mark Harris’s richly gross situations.
A mistake, painfully short on the author’s trademark humor. Return, Mark Beamon.