Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Burning Man

Book: Burning Man
Author: Alan Russell
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
Price: Paperback $14.95

Author Alan Russell continues to reap critical acclaim for his mystery novels. After reading “Burning Man” I can understand why. The story grabs you from the first moment and carries you straight through to a conclusion that leaves you wanting more, which is what any good storyteller aims for. In “Burning Man,” Russell goes to the heart of moral dilemmas that have life-altering consequences.

Michael Gideon is the burning man, burning for justice and burning up with memories and dreams.

Gideon is a man who has lost much but finds solace in his work. Despite troubling uncertainty about his own life and tragic loss, this veteran LAPD cop is unprepared for what will happen when he and his four-legged partner, Sirius, encounter a serial killer in the midst of a raging wildfire. The events leading to the two of them becoming front-page news, and the bad guy ending up in prison, will haunt Gideon during his and his partner’s recovery from severe burns, and stay with him as he battles his way back onto the force.

Instead of getting his choice job of working in homicide, Michael is dragooned into heading up the newly formed Special Cases Unit. The unusual and often bizarre cases require skill sets well suited to Gideon’s independent and resourceful way of thinking. Sirius is right with him every step of the way.

The dialog is crisp, the relationship between Gideon and Sirius is rich, and Gideon’s journey is satisfying to the reader. Who he is in the beginning – a nice enough fellow with hide-bound ideas about what constitutes justice – evolves throughout the story. He is conducting parallel but unrelated investigations, one complicated by his personal history and the other an amalgamation of half-truths and out right lies. His life is further complicated by the convicted serial killer who – even from prison – seems to have a long reach.

Russell is deft at plotting and masterful at character development. I recommend “Burning Man” because it’s plain good reading, a story with heart and hope, about a man who perhaps wonders at times if he has either

This is the first book by Russell I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. Publisher’s Weekly calls him, “One of the best writers in the mystery field today.” Russell’s 10 novels include whodunits, comedic capers and stories of suspense. His works have been nominated for many major awards in crime fiction. He has won a Critics’ Choice Award, The Lefty (awarded to the best humorous mystery of the year), and two San Diego Book Awards. He is a native and long-time resident of California, where he lives with his wife and three children. 


  1. Dear Sharon,

    I read your review of Alan Russell book Burning Man and feel that you did a great job. In my judgment, your review was balanced, fair and well-thought out. You have demonstrated a justified objectivity, giving a reader a clear impression of what to expect from the novel. I will be following your other reviews with interest.


  2. Thank you, Renz. Glad you enjoyed the review.