Book Review: Burn You Twice by Mary Burton

Burn You Twice by Mary Burton is a searing serial-killer thriller that follows Police Detective Joan Mason as she returns to her hometown of Montana to seek closure on a fire event that changed the entire course of her life—but will bringing up the past cauterize old wounds or turn her life to ash? 

Philadelphia Police Detective Joan Mason has run into a brick wall at work while investigating an arson case. Sure, she might have pressed her luck hoping that a confrontation with the prime suspect would elicit a confession, but Avery Newport and her rich, well-connected family are more than a match for a single detective—especially one whose own history with arson has been traumatic, to say the least. A decade earlier, while in her final year of college in Montana, a fire burned down the house she’d been living in with her best friend, Ann Bailey, nearly killing them both. Joan fled back east shortly after, leaving behind both Ann as well as Ann’s brother, Gideon, the man she once thought she loved.

Now, she’s been informed that the person convicted of the College Fire, as she calls it, is about to be released from prison. Elijah Weston was an underclassman in one of the classes for which she’d been a teacher’s assistant. A brilliant loner, his past history of setting fires as well as DNA evidence tied him to the arson and sealed his conviction. He maintained his innocence from the start, even going so far as to write congenial letters to Joan assuring her that he doesn’t blame her for his plight. In the absence of other suspects, Joan has to believe that it was Elijah who tried to kill her—doesn’t she?

Facing suspension at work, she decides to head back to Montana to see if she can finally get some closure on the case. But first, she’s forced to come to terms with the man she left behind. She’s surprised to discover that Gideon has also become a police detective—and that the woman he married shortly after Joan left for Philadelphia has passed away, leaving him to raise their 10-year-old son, Kyle. Joan thought that time and distance would heal all wounds, so she almost surprises herself when she snidely brings the subject up to him again during an argument:

“I didn’t go out with her until after you broke up with me,” he said.

 

“You didn’t wait more than a day or two.”

 

“How long was I supposed to wait, Joan?”

 

What he had done after she left was his business, not hers. But it still stung that he had moved on from her so quickly. She could feel her own damn emotions welling up, and she feared if she stayed [here] much longer, she would say something stupid that would make her look weak.

Vulnerability is not the image she wants to project, especially at this juncture. When a suspicious fire burns down a local beauty salon shortly after both she and a newly released Elijah arrive in town, Joan offers Gideon her professional expertise. Too practical not to accept, Gideon still has his own ulterior motives for saying yes—especially after Joan confesses that she’s kept in touch with Elijah over the years and plans to talk to him in person now that he’s free. While Gideon and Joan are doing their best to be professional, if not downright friendly, he can’t forget the love they once shared nor the friendship that Joan and Elijah cultivated before the fire torched everything.

Ten years of perspective exposed Joan and Elijah’s strong connection in college. They were two lost souls with no real family. Loneliness was a potent connection that bound tighter than the best sex. Gideon […] was not sure if Joan was under Elijah’s spell or if she simply saw something others did not. Either way, he wanted to keep Joan close until he untangled this case.

The complicated relationships are only one entertaining aspect of this suspenseful romantic thriller. Mary Burton’s writing is compellingly readable as she spins a tale of arson, lust, and murder as friends and lovers are drawn back together to get to the truth of the event that changed their lives so drastically a decade ago. I hope that Burn You Twice marks the beginning of a series, as I’d really like to know what happens next in the ongoing tale of our second-chance lovers, their families, and friends.

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