Burning Man by Alan Russell

burning-manBurning Man by Alan Russell
Series: Gideon & Sirius #1
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
Setting: Los Angeles, California
Published by Thomas & Mercer, 2012
E-book, Kindle Unlimited
328 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: LAPD cop Michael Gideon and his police dog partner Sirius became reluctant celebrities after capturing a notorious serial killer in the midst of an inferno. For their heroism, they were chosen to head up the newly formed Special Cases Unit. Now the duo tackles out-of-the-ordinary cases, anything deemed unusual or bizarre even by Hollyweird standards.

When a teenager is found crucified in a city park, Gideon and Sirius are handed the bizarre case. Confronting the gruesome tableau and having to work the case worsens Detective Gideon’s PTSD, a condition he has tried to hide from others. Gideon’s burns may have healed, but the fire haunts him still…in more ways than one.

Eerily prescient since that terrible night of the fire, Gideon has unusual insights into the crimes he investigates, a skill he and Sirius must learn to trust as much as they do each other if they are to solve—and survive—this case.

One of the occupational hazards of being a K-9 cop is loss of hearing because of your partner’s barking and howling.


When the two of us worked together in K-9, there had been clear divisions of rank, with frequent classes and exercises to reinforce that pecking order. The dogs are taught their handlers are generals and that they are grunts that have to obey no matter how insane the orders are. Sirius always went along with this game so as to not make me look bad, and still does.

Initial impressions

  • If you’ve read past reviews you may know that I really like police procedurals and also a police procedural featuring K-9 partners. This book has both and I really like it.
  • Michael and his K-9 partner Sirius are both heroic and go through a lot together.

The story

  • At the beginning of the book LAPD policeman Michael Gideon and his dog partner are sent to search for a possible serial killer. They have to follow the suspect into a brush fire and Michael, Sirius and the suspect are all badly burned.
  • It takes months for Michael and Sirius to recover, but when the do the police chief offers them a positions in a newly formed Special Case Unit.
  • Michael is suffering from flashbacks and nightmares from the fire, but he hides that from everyone and goes back to work.
  • They have several cases sent their way–a crucified teenager, a dead abandoned baby.
  • Since the fire Michael often has insights into cases he never had before. He has to decide whether to trust these insights.


  • I really enjoyed this book. However, there were several scenes which were hard to read since the main character was badly burned while arresting a killer. He relives these scenes over and over in nightmares.
  • Michael’s wife died before the book began so he’s been through a lot. His wife named Sirius after the Dog Star. Both Michael and Sirius miss her.
  • Sirius is a great character. Very loyal to Michael. They make great partners.
  • I like the procedural work of the book–talking to witnesses, writing and reading reports, trying to figure out why something happened the way it did.
  • The abandoned baby case is one which hits home for Michael since he was abandoned as a baby, but found by a priest who named him Michael Gideon. The priest is still a good friend of Michael.
  • The cases Michael is working on–the crucifixion, the dead abandoned baby–are very different cases, but still need standard case work.
  • I liked many of the other characters in the book. They are interesting and help provide insight into Michael.
  • The suspect Michael brought out of the fire is the serial killer he was looking for. Even though the serial killer is on death row, he apparently has a lot of clout among certain people on the outside. Something Michael finds out first hand.


  • Michael visits the serial killer he arrested in prison every month. The FBI asked him to visit since the killer refuses to talk to anyone else, but Michael doesn’t seem to visit to find out information. It was uncomfortable to read about since the killer seems to have the upper hand.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
  • I hope in the next book Michael is making progress getting over the PTSD and not visiting the killer in prison anymore.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • When Alan Russell writes his novels, he always plays the “what if” game: What if you were the son of a serial murderer and it suddenly appears to the world as if you are repeating your father’s sordid history? What if you are the holder of a grim secret with international consequences, but telling that secret implicates you in the death of an innocent? What if you are a homicide detective trying to solve a murder case in which the only witness is a young woman who offers up clues in the forms of her exotic multiple personalities?
  • Like his readers, Alan is eager to know what is going to happen to his characters, and says, “If I am passionate about what I am writing, then that passion will be infectious to my readers.”

Reading Challenges

Author: Jan

I love to read--especially mysteries, science fiction and fantasy. I also love blogging, photography, gardening, playing Mah Jonng, reading with a cat on my lap, throwing a ball for a dog, creating cards to send to family and friends, reading book blogs, using my computer.

2 thoughts on “Burning Man by Alan Russell”

  1. Hmm, sounds like this one was a bit mixed. I’ve not read many police procedurals (although I watch a number on TV), but I’m about to start reading In the Woods by Tana French on a colleague’s recommendation. Hopefully I enjoy it! 🙂


    1. I haven’t read In the Woods, but I’ve heard it’s good. This book was pretty good, but I have other police procedurals I like better. Deborah Crombie’s books are some of my favorites as are Louise Penny’s.


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