A year after the death of her ex-husband, FBI forensic pathologist Dr. Catherine “Cat” Powers and her young son, Joey, are trying to cope with the emotional aftermath of life without him. Joey is especially vulnerable after being kidnapped by the “Burning Man” and witnessing his father’s brutal murder.
On a peaceful Saturday afternoon in Quantico, a mysterious manila envelope arrives in Cat’s mailbox. Inside, she finds a lock of Joey’s hair and a photograph of him taken during his abduction, his face twisted in fear. The photograph could have been taken by only one person. Cat immediately knows that the Burning Man is back—and she and Joey may never be safe again.
When the Burning Man resurfaces in Southern California, a trail of the brutally mutilated bodies of young women left in his wake, Cat teams up once again with police detective Jim McGregor to hunt down the madman once and for all. But while Cat and McGregor methodically pursue one serial killer, Southern California’s beautiful neighborhoods begin to burn one by one. The investigators realize they must catch another killer: a serial arsonist who is happy not only to burn buildings but to watch his infernos consume people’s lives—a man obsessed with fire above all things, a man with a deep sense of hatred toward society. Cat and McGregor find themselves growing closer as they become enmeshed in a deadly game with two deranged killers who leave few clues and always seem to be one step ahead.
As the death toll mounts and powerful Santa Ana winds whip the flames, the evidence reveals that the two killers are connected to each other—and that one of them seeks revenge for the sins of Cat’s past. In the fire-ravaged hills of Southern California, Cat wages an epic battle against an arsonist and a sadistic murderer. She promises herself that this time, she will not let the killers get away. This time, she will see justice done—for the victims, for their families, for Joey. But will Cat have to pay the ultimate price?