In former CIA spy Plame's second novel, covert operative Vanessa Pierson is again pitted against rogue arms dealer Bhoot, who, she's surprised to discover, isn't in possession of a miniaturized nuclear prototype smuggled out of Iran. If he isn't, who is?
The untrustworthy Bhoot makes direct contact with Pierson for the first time ever following an explosion outside the Louvre that nearly kills her. He says he had nothing to do with the suicide attack, but does that mean that True Jihad, a new group claiming responsibility for it, does? And are they the ones with the device? Assigned to a special task force headed by the patronizing French intelligence director, Pierson and her enigmatic lover from the series debut, Blowback (2013), tiptoe around their hidden steamy romance when not sleuthing side by side. Another of her informants is killed, and on the way from Paris to Turkey, identities are blown. But certain dark secrets remain in place. Following their solid first effort, Plame and co-writer Lovett (creator of the Dr. Sylvia Strange series) run aground. The first 100 pages are plodding, the writing filled with clichés and unnecessary descriptions of how dangerous even a tiny nuke is. And once things get going, Burned still lacks a certain spark. Part of the problem is Plame hasn't yet decided how tough she wants Vanessa to be. While her klutziness is meant to be part of her charm, would someone in her position still be asking which "thingy" on her spy pen to press to record conversations? For that matter, after decades of James Bond stories, are there any enemy spies left who would be fooled by such a bug?
All the elements are in place for a satisfying thriller, but Plame's sophomore effort disappoints.