A "protest fire" is lit by four college student activists who want to stop construction on an environmental site. Unfortunately for them, a girl was inside the building at the time and winds up dead. Fortunately for somebody watching from the wings, it is the perfect opportunity for him to blackmail the four students into doing his bidding.
Firefighter David Hunter is on the scene to put out the fire and discovers the body. He also finds a mysterious globe. Police detective Olivia Sutherland soon finds out that similar globes were placed at protest fires more than ten years ago - which also ended in somebody dying. Could there be a link between these fires?
Conveniently, David and Olivia have a Past. They had a one-night stand in which David cried out another woman's name while Olivia was giving him a blow job. David knows he's in love with Olivia, but she doesn't trust him. Good thing there's a murder investigation going on that involves the both of them so that they can work things out, right?
Karen Rose's novels are over-long and spend too much time on trite and boring romantic misunderstandings. They way David and Olivia behave might be somewhat acceptable for a couple of sixteen-year-olds in a new relationship, but for two supposedly mature adults in careers like firefighting and homicide investigation? A little bit of a worry. On top of that, Olivia and David are otherwise painted as being utterly selfless to the point of sainthood. Sure, they have Demons In Their Closets, but once revealed, they're quite mild. So much time is spent on these two, their romantic insecurities and their collective pasts that the thriller and mystery element sometimes gets lost - despite the story taking place only over a few days!
Another tiresome element is the continued referencing to other books. Just about every character is somehow tied to another character from another book who has found love and sanctuary through a Terrifying Experience. It borders on the ridiculous.
The disappointing thing about these flaws is that it detracts from the fact that Karen Rose is otherwise quite a good author. The pacing is constant, and the killer is always active. A nice change from the usual killers in romantic suspense, who typically skulk around in the shadows doing everything in the nude and masturbating frequently, while continually promising: "I'm coming for you soon!" but never actually doing anything. In fact, this killer was quite pro-active and business-minded. Sometimes I found him more interesting than the bland main characters and their romantic to-and-fro. This killer got things done and I appreciated that. Also, this one delivers some solid suspense and actions as it races towards its climax, along with some genuinely decent plot twists. But it shouldn't take SO LONG to get to them! Shave 150 pages off this thing and you'd have a top-class, suspense thriller. As it is, it's still well above-average for the genre, and I think Rose has the talent to break out of the romance formula and deliver something truly memorable along the lines of Tess Gerritsen or Karin Slaughter (pre-Broken, of course). I'll keep reading to see if it happens.