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What Fire Cannot Burn    by John Ridley order for
What Fire Cannot Burn
by John Ridley
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

The follow-up to Ridley's Those Who Walk in Darkness once again takes readers into the violent, brutal and destructive world of Soledad O'Roark, Eddi Aoki, and the rest of the MTac team.

Tasked with the unenviable duty of hunting down and destroying metanormals (beings with supernatural abilities), Soledad is the best at what she does. She leads her MTac team with skill, determination and fearlessness in the face of even the most hazardous situations. So imagine her surprise when it's not a freak who suddenly takes her off the taskforce, but a Ford Expedition. Failing to look both ways before she crosses the street can spell the end of Soledad's career, but she's stubborn enough not to let that happen.

Recovering from her accident, Soledad transfers to DMI, the Division of Metanormal Intelligence. But things aren't quite what they seem at DMI, and that becomes clear when metanormals start showing up in the morgue with no help from the city's MTac teams. Is there a serial killer on the loose? A vigilante who's decided to take the law into his own hands? That's what Soledad has to find out ... or die trying.

Soledad's offbeat, gritty take on life is at times darkly humorous, but more often morbidly spellbinding. Dealing with the kind of destructive violence that often results in torn limbs and rivers of blood can make anyone a little cynical, but Soledad goes beyond that. She's crude, standoffish and incapable of personal connections with other human beings - including her cancer-patient mother and her alcoholic fiancÚ. As a result, she's difficult to relate to, and even harder to like.

Half-way through the book, a sudden twist takes the plot in a completely different direction. This is unexpected, but not entirely unpleasant as it leads to an ultimately satisfying conclusion. In true Ridley style, the ride to the explosive ending is action packed. Although the constant violence grows thin after a while, What Fire Cannot Burn is intense, fast-paced and provides a gritty twist on the usual escapist fantasy fare.

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