Rice, Christopher. “Blood Echo”, (“The Burning Girl”, Book 2), Thomas and Mercer, 2019.
Conspiracy of Blood
Charlotte Rowe has had a very strange life. She was kidnapped and raised by serial killers and became infamous as a result. Everyone in the world knew who she was but she was the only person who knew what she had become. the world has any idea what she’s become… She is both an experiment and a weapon. With the help of a superpower drug, she and a pharmaceutical company are hunting down and eliminating society’s most depraved human predators. Charlotte’s latest mission has been derailed in a horrifying way and she is having trouble with her own capacity for violence, Charlotte wants to retreat a bit so she can work on her new relationship with Luke, a sheriff’s deputy in Altamira, the isolated Central California town where she lives. However, she is being threatened and not only is this disturbing to her but it also dangerous.
A very large network of domestic terrorists with ties to Charlotte’s influential and corrupt employers have now appeared threatening to take over the town putting everyone she knows and loves in danger’s path. Charlotte realizes that she has to use her special powers. The time has come to act and take on the situation. While this is a thriller, it also has something to say about the “devastating effects of childhood trauma and what makes a monster…” Rice brings together bloody violence, complex characters, and high tech in a very dark story that pulls us in with the first sentence and keeps us wanting to learn more about Charlotte. We know that she survived a childhood of murder and exploitation and how to fight back. She was raised by serial killers and has become a weapon because of a superpower drug she has been taking. When something goes wrong on a mission, a vast criminal conspiracy follows her home. However to truly understand what is going on, it is best to read “Bone Music” book one of the trilogy before reading this. I have read all of Rice’s books and have seen his writing mature. The plot here moves quickly and there is a lot to be gleaned in reading about this ethically corrupt pharmaceutical company that while experimenting with some futuristic drugs, goes far beyond drugs which will alleviate illness. Some of its other projects seem objectionable. Charlotte is the result of one of their experiments and it was with that when she gained superhuman strength, when she is feeling fear and also the power to regenerate wounds. There is also a serial killer to be stopped, and a fanatical band of domestic terrorists that are endangering the town and surroundings.
The plot was filled with non-stop high octane excitement. However, since I hadn’t read the first book in the series I felt at a disadvantage. Characters and events from the first book were mentioned, but I felt there were gaps in my knowledge which prevented me from having a more enjoyable read. This was particularly true of Charlotte’s horrific early background and what led her to undergo the experiments which made her so powerful. I wanted to know how she met Luke, now a deputy sheriff in a small, isolated town. Charlotte would like to retreat there as some of her violent assignments have preyed on her conscience, but she is also tied to the company which made her superhuman.
We gain a lot to think about on issues such as vigilante justice and our illusion of privacy. The action here is quite intense and there are many twists and turns that keep us guessing.