Some call it "mind reading," others perceive it as "psychic
ability" or extrasensory perception. Iris Johansen doesn't give it
a particular label, but in her new book FIRESTORM, the main
characters have extraordinary sensibilities that allow them to do
things ordinary men and women can't even dream of. When Kerry
Murphy was eight years old she emerged from two years in a coma.
She had been hit on the head by the arsonist who torched her house
and killed her mother. When she woke up, she "had a special psychic
talent triggered by fire. If [she came] anywhere near the area of a
fire … [she] received vibes; sometimes [she could] actually
see it being done." As an adult she started her career as a
firefighter, but the pain her visions imposed upon her forced her
to quietly use her talent in a different way. She became an arson
investigator with an amazingly accurate record.
Kerry is good at her job. But because she works with a canine
"fire-sniffer" named Sam, she gives him all the credit for her
success rate in identifying arsons. Sam is a dopey looking gangly
animal and "as an arson dog he's a complete washout." Kerry wants
"everyone to believe [that Sam has the best nose] in the southeast.
[She] didn't want [anyone] to know the truth; that the only way
[she] knew where and how the fires were being set was [because she]
saw it being done." Sometimes, she even felt the blistering heat on
the skin and the smoke choking her lungs.
One day, Brad Silver barges into her life and forever things change
for them both. He had been comatose as a result of a serious car
crash and emerged with a different kind of psychic power. He has
the ability to enter the minds of others and not only read them
but, if necessary, alter their thoughts for good or ill. He needs
Kerry to help him find and stop "a monster that makes the man who
killed [her] mother angelic in comparison." He tells Kerry that he
can help her remember the face that she glimpsed that horrific
night … that their mutual therapist, Travis, had given him
her name and that he knew she could help stop more deaths.
Kerry is not interested. She knows that often after a person wakes
from a coma s/he has altered brain chemistry and may even be
"rewired," but this information does nothing to soothe her rage or
make her feel less like a whacko. After Silver makes his pitch
… "she said through her teeth, 'I don't want anything to do
with you … you're a freak and you want to make me one too.' "
In the years she had worked with Travis in an attempt to come to
terms with what she deeply considered an affliction, "he said [she]
wasn't a freak, that the visions were telepathic, and that [she]
had to learn to live with them. He said [she] wasn't alone and that
there were others [with these extraordinary abilities as a result
of childhood comas.] He and his wife were trying to reach out to
find and help them … because [they] went through it
But Silver realizes he has his work cut out for him if he is ever
going to persuade Kerry to help him catch Trask, a truly "mad"
scientist who is taking a scorched earth approach to those he
perceives as his enemies. The project he had been working on for
the government was shut down because the technology was so
dangerous that it would be better for the United States not to
develop it in order to keep it out of the hands of rogue nations.
But Trask has already sold his "baby" to the North Koreans and is
perfecting it by using it to burn his nemeses to death. If their
families or innocent people get in the way, tough!
FIRESTORM is a romantic tale of suspense whose plot is simple and
linear, which makes it very one-dimensional. The characters are
never really fleshed out; their dialogue is pedestrian and banal,
and the story itself is riddled with soft spots --- too many to
give much substance to what could have been a highly suspenseful
book. Iris Johansen is a very popular and prolific writer. She has
at least twenty-two previous novels in print all over the world.
Thus, one can only hope in her next endeavor that she gives her
readers a richer story populated with multi-dimensional
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 21, 2011